Review: S J Bolton – Like This For Ever

I’m a relatively new reader to S J Bolton’s fiction but I enjoyed her last novel, Dead Scared, enough to want to catch up with her S J Boltonprevious books. I haven’t got around to doing this yet but the latest in the Lacey Flint series, Like This For Ever,  dropped on my doormat recently. Most of us bloggers are influenced by other reviewers’ posts and an excellent review at the website Novel Heights, which called it ‘the best thing I’ve read in 2013’, made the book impossible to resist.

Lacey Flint is haunted by the events that unravelled in Dead Sacred and is off work and seeing a psychiatrist. She befriends her next door neighbour, Barney, who is obsessed with looking for his missing mother. Young boys have been going missing from the area and are then found murdered days later. Lacey is determined not to get involved but, when Barney appeals for help, she is forced to confront the demons which are preventing her from rejoining the police. Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury of the Major Investigations Team struggle to make headway in the case. They have a leak within the team and a celebrity psychologist is mocking them for their inability to find the killer.

Bolton’s strengths lie in her ability to develop a plot so that you’re swept along by the narrative until the conclusion. Like This Forever, successfully switches between multiple narratives to deliver a sense of impending catastrophe as more boys disappear. There’s occasionally the feeling that the reader is being manipulated too much but overall the red herrings that are scattered around the book work well. The characterisation is excellent. Damaged DC Lacey Flint dominates the narrative and her attraction to Mark Joesbury remains a constant theme. We get to see more of the personal lives of the police here, especially Dana Tulloch who is yearning for a child of her own.

After Bolton’s previous sojourn to Cambridge, it’s good to be back in London with some excellent descriptions of Thamesside locations and a strong sense of urban menace. I found the novel to be a genuine ‘whodunnit’ of the classic variety, and it’s always nice to read a book that keeps you guessing.

Thanks to Transworld for the copy of my book.

Review: S J Bolton – Dead Scared

dead scared_500x760SJ Bolton is an author that I’ve been meaning to try for a while. Her books are both popular sellers but also garner decent reviews which is a difficult balance to achieve. This week I read Dead Scared almost in one sitting which is an achievement for a crime novel these days. However the tension  and narrative style made this book almost impossible to put down.

When a Cambridge student sets herself alight, police are convinced that there is someone behind the abnormally high suicides that have taken place at the university. DC Lacey Flint is sent to Cambridge posing a depression-prone student in an attempt to discover if there are darker forces encouraging students to take their own lives. However, DI Mark Joesbury is concerned for her welfare, particularly as Lacey has been sent in without having been given all the facts about the girls’ deaths. The only person at the University who is aware of Lacey’s true identity is psychiatrist Evi Oliver. However, Evi is suffering from her own emotional problems and is convinced that someone is watching her. When Lacey starts to experience the same nightmares as the other dead girls, it is clear that her own sanity and life are in danger.

Because I’m not used to Bolton’s writing it was difficult at the start to work out if I was reading psychological thriller with a supernatural element. This wouldn’t have bothered me, but as the novel progressed it became clear that the women involved were being manipulated by forces that although malevolent were almost certainly from flesh and blood adversaries. This is the most compelling aspect of the book. We feel the disorientation of the two professional women – Evi and Lacey – as they try and make sense of the suicides while feeling under attack themselves. Lacey has appeared in a previous book by Bolton and although there are references to this throughout Dead Scared it made me want to read Now You See Me.

The relationship between Lacey and Mark Joesbury is intriguing. Much is made of the ‘impossibility’ of any relationship developing but in this book at least, it’s not clear why. However the sense of attraction comes across clearly. All the characters are well developed and I particularly liked the portrayal of the burned girl lying in the hospital bed. It is rare in crime fiction that you get such a poignant portrayal of a victim and I thought it admirable that Bolton managed to get over the extent of the girl’s injuries without it seeming gratuitous.

The ending really was ‘unputtdownable’ and I guess my only complaint would be that I was left slightly stunned at the end. This is almost certainly a good thing.

Thanks to the publisher Transworld for the copy of my book. Other reviews can be found at Petrona and Notes of Life both of whom also comment on the compelling nature of the ending.