When a man is stabbed to death by a canal DS Allie Shenton’s earliest thoughts go along the lines of that this is something more exciting than a domestic, this is something she can get her teeth into, she soon is eating her words as the ruthless killer stacks up the bodies in Stoke-On-Trent at an unseemly rate.
Mickey Taylor has been found with a magnetic letter E in his pocket the significance of which eludes Allie and the team. When a second man is killed a couple of days later a link is made, the two men had attended the same school, as did Allie’s fellow officer Perry and her elder sister Karen. Be warned this is a book where the reader knows who the killer is from the start, we get to see him back in the 1980’s and in the present day and therefore know far more than the police. Knowing the killer is a tricky device for the author to pull off, but I’m pleased to report that I felt no less suspense in this book than when I’m trying to solve the puzzle myself, in fact, if anything I was more eager than ever for the police to work out the scarce clues they had to hand, and foil the killer.
The switches between past and present were also expertly presented, there was no confusion whatsoever at the change-over points and the voices were authentic in both time periods. As the 1980’s is when I was at school any inconsistencies would have jarred but there weren’t any. Each of the characters, and there are a fair few to keep track of, particularly as those in the 80’s were often known by nicknames, were on the whole a sensible mixture of good and bad. I’m not a fan of outright goodies and baddies in books and it was almost like a school reunion seeing who had come good all these years later, and of course to wonder which of them were going to live to tell the tale!
Having recently read the first book in this series Taunting The Dead, the story of Allie and her elder sister Karen was already fresh in my mind. As with any good series the story arc continues in this book, as does her husband’s concern about Allie’s job, but in this book the conflict is handled with far more subtlety and thereby making it more realistic. I like Allie, she is a well-balanced police officer and her relationships with her fellow officers are cordial with a happy absence of ongoing conflict allowing the reader to concentrate on the crime at hand.
This book hit all the key points for a five-star read; a great mix of characters, a believable villain, a fantastic plot and writing that flowed despite the complexities of two different time periods. If you haven’t read Taunting The Dead ,in theory although the story-line in that book is alluded to in this one, you could easily enjoy this as a stand-alone, but why would you want to? My recommendation is that you buy both books and immerse yourself in Allie Shenton’s world.
Follow The Leader will be published on 10 February 2015 and I’d like to thank Amazon publishers, Thomas and Mercer, for allowing me to read a proof copy of this excellent book in return for my opinion.
Previous books by Mel Sherratt: