Psychotherapist Helen Brunswick is found murdered in her office, her limbs broken post mortem. This was the signature of the serial killer Anthony Amaro, who killed six women in the same manner twenty years previously. A serial killer who is still in jail, protesting his innocence.
Carrie Blank, a young legal associate, joins forces with a celebrity defence lawyer in order to overturn Amaro’s conviction, although she has her own agenda. Her sister was one of Amaro’s victims and she is determined to find out the truth about why she died.
Meanwhile NYPD detectives Ellie Hatcher and JJ Rogan are assigned to review the original case against Amaro. As their leads head towards Carrie’s hometown, the location the crimes, it seems that there are plenty of secrets to be unearthed. And someone doesn’t want the truth coming out.
This is the tenth novel by Alafair Burke – not an author that I’ve come across before – and the fifth featuring Ellie Hatcher. It’s clear from the developments in her personal life that there’s a little backstory that I’ve missed but this book fills in any gaps without spoiling previous stories.
It’s a reasonably straightforward style of thriller. The narrative alternates between points of view, primarily Ellie and Carrie, although there are a couple of exceptions late in the day, as their differing motives give them different outlooks on the case. Ellie’s story is more straightforward, as she’s not personally involved in the case, but the conflict with her partner – their opinion of Amaro’s innocence differs, for example – keeps this sequence fresh. Carrie’s tale is more personal and is more atypical and it’s less clear where it’s going. Also, in case anyone’s running for the hills at the use of the term serial killer, there is absolutely no dwelling on the violence.
The mystery element is, like the last book I reviewed (A Perfect Death by Kate Ellis), multi-layered, but unlike that book, most of it was a little too guessable. One central idea in particular will be familiar to armchair detectives and it felt a little odd that neither investigating party considers it for a long time.
Still, this is an engrossing read with two strong female leads who at no point act like credulous victims. Well worth a look.
My thanks to Faber & Faber for the review copy.