REVIEW: THE NEXT TO DIE, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

 

What if having a best friend could put you in the crosshairs of a killer?

A psychopath the police have dubbed “Billy Dead Mates” is targeting pairs of best friends, and killing them one by one. Before they die, each victim is given a small white book.

For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or figure out what the white books symbolize and why the killer leaves them behind. The police are on edge; the public in a panic. Then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward. What she reveals shocks the investigators and adds another troubling layer to an already complex case.

Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did last year. Was the stranger Billy, and is he targeting her—or is it something more nefarious? Kim has no friends and trusts no one, so how—and why—could Billy Dead Mates want to target her? If it’s not her, then who will be the next to die?

 

My Thoughts: The Next to Die opens with letters between Susan Nordlein and someone named Inessa Hughes, regarding a book entitled Origami, written by Kim Tribbeck. We are left pondering the content of such a book…and then, in subsequent chapters, we follow the mystery of a serial killer dubbed Billy Dead Mates.

We go back and forth between Kim’s first person narrative and the activities of the various detectives: DC Simon Waterhouse, DC James Wing, and DI Giles Proust. Sergeant Charlie Zailer has her own obsessive pursuit involving her sister Liv, and ropes Kim into her quest.

Charlie and Simon are married to each other, featured regularly in the Spilling CID series, but one often wonders how two such seemingly incompatible individuals could be a pair. They each have obsessive qualities, but are otherwise an unlikely couple, in my opinion.

Why has the killer chosen these victims? What are the connections between them? Each detective pursues various angles, meeting occasionally with the rest of the team, at which time they are subjected to the sarcastic comments of DI Proust, who is often described as The Snowman. Cold, bitter, and without any leadership skills.

Slowly we come to sort through the clues along with the detectives, also wondering what to make of the motives and choices of the killer. Just as the seemingly unrelated victim pool begins to make sense, we are sidetracked onto other quests, namely Charlie’s pursuit of her sister’s secrets.

Even as we knew the killer’s identity a while before the end, a stunning gathering of interested parties came together at the end to hear the reasons for it all. And those reasons were almost too “out there” for the audience of relatively sane individuals. This interesting take on bookish life in the modern age earned 4 stars.***

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “PERSONS UNKNOWN”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today I am featuring an ARC from Amazon Vine, from a newly discovered author.  A book that is second in a series:  Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner, is a  brilliant crime novel from the author of Missing, Presumed.  A complicated detective investigates her most personal case yet: a high-profile murder in which those she loves most become suspects.

 

Beginning:  (Day 1, December 14, Jon-Oliver)

Down.  Dizzy.  Pitching left.  He is draining away like dirty water, round and round.  Stumbling not walking, the ground threatening to come up and meet him.  And yet he presses on.  Something’s not right.

***

56:  (Manon)

“Oh, God, you need wine,” Manon says, pouring Sauvignon Blanc into a glass and handing it to Ellie, who’s sitting at the kitchen table pushing a balled tissue into a nostril.  Her eyes are red, her lips cracked.  She takes the glass gratefully.  “Hang on,” says Manon, making for the doorway, “—right back.”

***

Synopsis:  Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant and has officially given up on finding romantic love. Instead, she is in hot pursuit of work-life balance and parked in a cold case corridor—the price she’s had to pay for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. This is fine, she tells herself. She can devote herself to bringing up her two children: her adopted twelve-year-old son, Fly Dent, and the new baby. Fly needed a fresh start—he was always being stopped and searched in London by officers who couldn’t see past the color of his skin. Manon feared that Fly, increasingly sullen and adolescent, was getting in with the wrong crowd at school, or that possibly he was the wrong crowd. Being home by five, for the sake of her children, is what Manon tells herself she needs.

Yet when a wealthy businessman is found stabbed close to police headquarters, Manon can’t help but sidle in on the briefing: The victim is a banker from London, worth millions. More dramatically, he was once in a relationship with Manon’s sister, Ellie, and is the father of Ellie’s toddler son.

The case begins to circle in on Manon’s home and her family. She finds herself pitted against the colleagues she once held dear: Davy Walker and Harriet Harper.

Can Manon separate what she knows about the people she loves from the suspicion hanging over them? Can she investigate the evidence, just as she would with any other case? With every fiber of her being, Manon must fight to find the truth.

***

Would you keep reading?  Do the excerpts grab you?

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REVIEW: MISSING, PRESUMED, BY SUSIE STEINER

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On a night in December 2010, DS Manon Bradshaw, of the Cambridgeshire police, is trying once again to find “the one.” Internet dating has been terribly disappointing, especially this latest one. But, at thirty-nine, she longs for a family, with children, so she keeps trying.

Back in her flat, while falling asleep, she listens to the police radio, as was her custom. But first she spends some time whining to best friend Bryony about her miserable dating life. Tonight’s radio is still a comfort…until it isn’t. There is a call to action…a missing person case.

Meanwhile, in her lovely Hampstead home, Miriam Hind is enjoying her Sunday, thinking of how glad she is to have a daughter, Edith, and imagines her caring for her in her old age. Her husband Ian, a surgeon, and a physician who treats the royal family, is out somewhere, enjoying the day.

All of these lives are about to be upended…the missing person case involves Edith Hind, and while the clues are puzzling, the detectives are consumed with following them. What we learn of Edith as we go along is that she is self-absorbed, narcissistic, and careless with others. Others will fall by the wayside during the quest and the publicity, including Edith’s friend Helena Reed.

Missing, Presumed kept me reading, and while there were many red herrings along the way, none of the troublesome mysteries would bring this reader to suspect what had actually happened. There were also some moments between colleagues that were enjoyable. I liked Manon, her partner, Davy, and another of her attempts at a relationship with a man called Alan Prenderghast. Sadly, a disappointment. But then she finds a ten-year-old boy, Fly Kent, whose brother Taylor has been killed…and whose mother is sick. She looks in on him, pays for someone to keep him fed, and waits.

In the end, I liked how the pieces came together, and look forward to reading more about Manon and her life. 4.5 stars.

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