Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Killer on the Wall – Emma Kavanagh

Psychological Thriller

Isla was just fifteen when she came across three dead bodies sat up against Hadrian’s Wall. Alongside them was the brother of one of the victims, injured but still alive. Isla ran to get help from her father Sergeant Eric Bell and he made it his mission to find out who committed this atrocity in the small town community of Briganton. Life was never the same again, the scars of the events of 1995 never quite healing.

In the present day Isla is Professor of Criminal Psychology, her way of trying to ensure that future killers are stopped before they inflict any damage. She is currently involved in a project to scan the brains of serial killers to see what, if any difference, she can find to contrast their make-up to the vast majority of the population who don’t feel the urge to kill others.

It is no great surprise that one of the candidates for her study is Heath McGowan the man convicted of the terrible crimes that she discovered. Isla has had to overcome her fear, she does it daily, running the same path along the wall to banish those demons from twenty years ago but will she be able to face up to this particular psychopath? Imagine Isla’s horror shared with the rest of the small community, when another victim is found positioned in a similar pose to those of all those years ago.

The face of the Police investigation should be Eric Bell whose career flourished after he found the killer back in 1995 but I was far more entranced by Detective Constable Mina Arian who wasn’t afraid to follow her instincts in coming up with an explanation why the killings have started again.

As with all her previous books Emma Kavanagh draws heavily on her background in psychology, having gained a PhD in the subject at Cardiff University, and so you can rest assured this is not pop psychology but the real deal. It is this underlying truth that make her books so fascinating. The Killer on the Wall is fundamentally about psychopaths and in part how to first spot them (face it, you will know at least one) and to know that they will lie and cheat to get what they want no matter the cost to others. Fortunately for the rest of us, not all psychopaths need to kill us but nevertheless this is a book that hits that nerve where you realise that even in a community where everyone knows each other, you’re not as safe as you would like to believe.

The plot is not as fast moving as in the author’s previous books but as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve come to appreciate the slower pace which gives you time to reflect on the knowledge gained so far and I firmly believe that it is this pace that gives headroom for those deep-seated fears so the tension comes from as much within the reader as the words on the page – far more scary!!

I’d like to thank Arrow for providing me with an ARC of The Killer on the Wall, this review is my thanks to them and the immensely talented Emma Kavanagh – thank you for providing me with a real mystery set in a small town where everyone is under suspicion whilst the majority are terrified out of their wits.

First Published UK: 20 April 2017
Publisher: Arrow
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Great Reads by Emma Kavanagh

The Missing Hours

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

No Man’s Nightingale – Ruth Rendell

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

I succumbed to a bit of a bug last week and was looking for something comforting to read, the book on the reading schedule just didn’t fit the bill so I turned to the tab of books I own, and found this Ruth Rendell book, the twenty-fourth in the Wexford series which sounded just what I needed. There are lessons to be learnt; firstly part of the need to add new books to my shelves despite having more than enough is the fear of being left with nothing to read that fits my mood, buying lots of books has averted that near disaster. Secondly, listing all my books was the right thing to do since No Man’s Nightingale was under a stack of books at the back of a cupboard and I may have succumbed to the temptations of newer shinier books sitting on the shelf where I can see them and forgotten all about this treasure.

So, if asked I would undoubtedly state that I prefer Ruth Rendell’s standalone work to the Wexford series and I prefer her writing as Barbara Vine to both but that is a little bit disingenuous as I am very fond of dear old Wexford, this was the man who shepherded in my crime reading tendencies in early adulthood and having checked out the publication dates he’d already had at least fourteen books published about him by then.

Anyway by the time we get to book number twenty-four Wexford is in retirement, busy hiding from his very loquacious cleaner and reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire interspersed with lunch with his daughter and various sedate outings with his wife and the occasional beer with his old partner Mike Burden. The changes to Wexford’s life seem to accurately reflect the change that retirement brings to many a successful man without turning the protagonist into a cliché and some of his thoughts and behaviours made me smile – it is good to have some gentle humour to soften the blow of a murder! And indeed life livens up a little when the local female vicar gets murdered. Mike Burden allows Wexford to view the crime scene and help out at first with clear direction with the investigation. The whole team get busy with yet the motive and the opportunity seem somewhat scarce. Surely the fact that she was a female member of the clergy couldn’t have got her killed? There are also musings that maybe this was a racist attack but Mike Burden doesn’t care about motives – he’s looking with someone with the opportunity.

This isn’t as tautly plotted as some of the earlier books, I got the feeling that Ruth Rendell was accurately reflecting how some of the older generation find the pace of recent change bewildering; how hard it is to be in sync with modern views, especially to do with the subjects touched on in this book, when the old ones have solidified over the years. That isn’t to say there isn’t a mystery and it has a good few red herrings but this isn’t a fast-moving plot and nor does it have the clear psychological bent of many of her books. There were however apart from the familiar ones, some interesting and well-defined characters, plenty of misinformation and the curious new relationship between Mike Burden and his old boss.

This was a satisfying read, all the more so because of course it is the last book in the series, there will be no more Wexford and perhaps that swayed my feelings in a more positive direction, or maybe the familiarity of the characters followed over a quarter of a century meant that although I hadn’t read this particular book before, the rhythm of the language the gentle exploration of themes was comforting.