London, present day. DC Lacey Flint has an obsession with the long-unsolved mystery of Jack the Ripper, but has yet to be involved in a murder case. But when a dying woman accosts her in the street, she is engulfed in a psychopath’s deadly games. A psychopath who seems determined to emulate Lacey’s “hero”.
It soon becomes clear, however, that this is more than a random killer. The victims have a link to an horrific event from the past. And the killer seems to think that Lacey herself may be involved as well – as do some of her colleagues…
Not my usual cup of tea, as regular readers of the blog will realise, but every now and then I like to have a look at something a little different from the genre – that is the raison d’être of the blog after all. And there’s another reason, which I’ll come to in a bit, even though it makes me look a bit stupid…
OK, on the basis of the plot summary, I’d fully expect some of my regular readers to have stopped reading, or to have already written this one off. Another Jack the Ripper thriller, guts and gore all over the place, a generic Tesco shelf-filler-thriller, why should I bother with this?
Basically, the first reason would be that it’s rather good. No, scratch that, it’s very good. Yes, it’s a twisty-turny thriller, rather than a clue-laden whodunnit, but there are plenty of hints as to the truth of what is going on and while you’re looking more at a jigsaw puzzle style thriller rather than a logic problem, the plot is full of little surprises.
Second reason, despite what you might suspect, this isn’t a blood-and-gore soaked slaughterfest. Yes, you can’t do a Jack the Ripper story without getting your pages a bit dirty, but this isn’t the sort of book that dwells on the gore. There’s enough to let you know that horrific things are happening, but the author realises that there is no need to focus on that. Notably, we don’t see an internal monologue from the killer about how much fun they’re having. The details of the crimes are not the selling point of the book, and readers with sensitive stomachs will probably be okay with this. Probably.
In fact the focus of the book is on crimes against women and, despite the victims in the story being female, this is done in an effective way. The Ripper idea fades towards the second half of the book as we gain more of an idea of the big picture and you realise what a sensitive job S J Bolton has done overall.
And finally, we get the characters, in particularly the complex Lacey. Clearly a woman with many secrets, these are drip-fed through the story, and you are constantly re-evaluating what her connection to the killings is. I’ll say no more than that, otherwise I might end up spoiling something, but she is a fascinating lead, narrating the majority of the tale in a way that still leaves a number of questions open as we progress, although not in an artificial way.
Yes, on the surface, this is a thriller, not a classic mystery, and, if I had to criticise, the title has virtually nothing to do with the book (surely “My Favourite Things” would have been better, given… oh, I won’t spoil that creepy bit). But it’s a great page-turner with some genuine surprises and comes highly recommended.
Oh, and my stupidity – when requesting the book from Netgalley, I got the author confused with S J Watson. Very glad I did though.