The Woman In Black by Kerry Wilkinson

The Woman In  BlackA mysterious parcel is left in the centre of Manchester. When it is opened, it is found to contain a severed man’s hand – minus a finger. The only clue that DS Jessica Daniel has to go on is the CCTV footage of a woman, shrouded from head to toe in black.

Soon the finger arrives, sent to the police station, and more hands are found – each time the image of a woman dressed all in black is seen dropping the package off. But with no hint of whether the hands’ owners are dead or alive, or even who they are, how on earth do you investigate? It doesn’t help when most of the force is investigating the disappearance of the wife of the local MP. But now the killer has noticed Jessica and has starting sending the fingers to her…

The third in a series that I’ve taken far too long to come back to – hence Mr Wilkinson’s inclusion in my hit list for 2014. Locked In was a great start to the series, which was improved on further in the second book, Vigilante. Is it three out of three?

It’s such a pleasure to read about the reasonably well-adjusted Jessica Daniel. So many detectives have major personal hang-ups but she feels like the sort of person you could actually meet. After the trauma in Vigilante (no spoilers), it’s nice to see a reasonably scar-free outing for her. Not every investigation for a policeperson has to become personal and while we get a bit of peril as our plucky heroine confronts the nefarious villain of the piece, it’s nice to see that she learned from a previous mistake. Again, no spoilers…

Nice to see her getting on with Caroline, her flatmate from Locked In, again. Part of the non-plot narrative concerns Jessica being Caroline’s bridesmaid. And again, well done to the author for not colliding the two plot lines in the church/reception – must have been tempting, but the two are quite rightly kept separate.

As for the mystery, it’s cleverly done. While the gambit being played isn’t totally unfamiliar to me, it’s not used that often and it’s done pretty well here. Even with a bit of a dearth of suspects, I nearly missed the killer.

There is a but… though. While there is a reason for the Grand Guignol game with the hands and fingers, it’s a fairly weak one. Compare it to the clue of a similar sort of thing in Stuart MacBride’s Shatter The Bones which was unimportant but still damn clever. Here, it’s more because a nutter thought it was clever. It doesn’t detract from the central mystery element which, as I said, I thought was well done, but to be honest, I thought it was a bit over the top. More of a lure to attract the reader than anything else. It worked though, didn’t it?

Anyway, apologies for not returning to the series sooner. Kerry Wilkinson has made me into a regular reader of this series – this is a Recommended read and I’ll try not to leave it too long before book four, Think Of The Children.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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5 Responses to The Woman In Black by Kerry Wilkinson

  1. TracyK says:

    I bought Locked In on your recommendation, but haven’t read it yet. The story of my life… my reading life, anyway. So I will come back and check this out when I get done with Locked In. I am glad you liked this one.

  2. Santosh Iyer says:

    Though the main mystery plot is quite clever, I feel that the book is too long with over 400 pages. There is a lot of padding. Also, a lot of space is wasted on irrelevant strands. As a result, the novel often becomes a drag.
    The identity of a previous serial killer is revealed in this book. I think that it refers to the second book Vigilante which I have not read.. Again in Vigilante, the murderer of the first book Locked In is revealed according to your post. Seems an annoying habit on part of the author !

    • Yes, the killer in a previous book is named, but I can’t remember the name a day after reading the book and there was no detail as to what exactly had happened. It is an odd habit of the writer – maybe he’ll grow out of it.

      But I didn’t find the book a long read – the plot was never far from the narrative and I enjoyed the diversions. Each to their own…

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