Another strong entry in the series…
😀 😀 😀 😀
Two women have been murdered – the mother brutally, the daughter left posed as if she were sleeping. Psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is called in to review the case when another psychologist who had been working on it, an old student of his, reveals details of the crime to the press. It’s not clear from the differences between the two murders whether this is the work of a psychopathic killer or something more personal. But when another murder happens, linked to a series of vicious attacks, Joe begins to suspect that there’s a connection…
Meantime, Joe’s estranged wife, Julianne, has asked Joe to come and spend the summer with the family in their holiday cottage. Joe has never stopped hoping for a reconciliation so jumps at the chance, although he knows that Julianne won’t be happy that he’s got involved in another police investigation. It’s only as time passes that he will discover the reason for Julianne’s invitation.
The story is told from Joe’s perspective in the dreaded first person present tense, but at least Robotham is skilled enough to handle it well. The focus remains primarily on the investigation throughout, with Joe’s personal life forming a secondary strand.
Feeling responsible for his old student’s behaviour, Joe is driven to find the killer before there are any more victims, so he calls in his old friend Vincent Ruiz, now retired from the police, to help him investigate. They do so in the ‘old-fashioned’ way, by interviewing suspects and getting to know the background of the victims. The plotting is excellent as always – I didn’t guess the solution, but felt it made sense when revealed, though looking back I’m not sure there were enough clues for the reader to work it out.
However, as with so much modern crime fiction, the book is far too long for its content, meaning that it drags in places with the same ground being covered more than once, and it takes way too long for Joe and/or the police to work out the obvious connection between the victims. The old cliché of the protagonist’s family becoming targets is trotted out again – one can quite understand why Julianne gets a bit fed up with Joe taking on cases since every time the murderer ends up trying to kill one or all of them! In line with current trends, there’s the obligatory prologue from the mind of the killer, and in this case it’s pretty sleazy and a bit gruesome – to be honest, if this had been my first Robotham novel, I may well have abandoned it before chapter 1, but experience led me to expect, rightly, that the salacious elements wouldn’t be allowed to take over the whole book.
I also wasn’t keen on the personal story arc in this one, which becomes fairly traumatic. Robotham handles it sensitively and well, but nonetheless I’m not an enthusiast for this kind of wallowing in misery, soap opera approach to the protagonist’s life in contemporary crime.
Despite the clichéd elements, Robotham’s excellent writing always makes his books very readable and this one is no exception. Joe is an interesting and likeable protagonist, his battle with Parkinson’s disease always handled well, again never being allowed to dominate the story, and his working partnership with Ruiz is one of two equals with differing skills who respect each other. His relationships with his ex-wife and daughters always feel authentic too – he is at heart a family man, and although he and Julianne are separated, the family unit is still strong and both parents work together to give their daughters the support they need. The plot finally leads up to an exciting and scary thriller ending, but Joe never turns into an unbelievable superhero, so that it all feels perfectly credible.
So, for me, not quite the best, but still a strong entry in a series that is a long way above most contemporary crime. The plot works fine as a standalone, but to get the best out of the background story I’d recommend reading the books in order – unlike me! – starting with The Suspect.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group UK.