Source: Review copy
Publication: 16 September 2021 from Black Swan
My thanks to Transworld for an early copy for review
The Foreign Secretary is being held under the Terrorism Act. He will answer the police’s questions on one condition – they let him speak to Dr Augusta Bloom.
He asks Bloom to track down his niece, Scarlett, who hasn’t spoken to her family for ten years. The last they heard, Scarlett was getting involved with Artemis – an organisation dedicated to women’s rights and the feminist movement, led by the charismatic Paula Kunis.
But as Bloom learns more about Artemis, she’s torn. Is this organisation everything it claims to be, or do they have a secret side and an alternative agenda? And if so, what has become of Scarlett?
The only way to find out for sure is for Bloom to go undercover. But will she make it out safely – or will she become the next Artemis woman to disappear?
You can read this book as a stand-alone, but for the back story of Augusta Bloom and Seraphine Walker, read the series in order, starting with Gone.
Dr. Augusta Bloom is a psychologist who often works with the police and her friend and business partner is Marcus Jameson, an ex -MI6 operative who left the service with severe burn-out.
Their major cases have all been connected to a brilliant but psychopathic woman named Seraphine Walker whom Bloom and Jameson have encountered before. It is Bloom’s psychological profiling that has played a key role in enabling her analytical mind to get to the truth of what Walker has been up to.
This time, Walker has just walked away scot free from the Old Bailey on a technicality. But Augusta Bloom does not have time to wonder why that happened as she is summoned to a meeting.
Gerald Porter, the serving Foreign Secretary is being held by a in an MOD building by a covert group specifically set up to investigate corrupt actions by those in power. Porter is refusing to talk to anyone but Bloom. Bloom doesn’t know Porter other than by reputation, but she does know D.C.I. Mirza of the Met who is involved in this arrest.
Insisting on a one to one with Augusta, Porter tells her that he is seriously concerned for his niece, Scarlett Marshall. He’s making his co-operation conditional on Bloom doing her best to find Scarlett and make sure she is safe and well.
Scarlett, who inherited a great deal of money when she turned 21, has not been seen for nine years and she was last seen with Paula Kunis, leader of Artemis, a proselytising campaign group for women’s rights.
Trying to trace Scarlett is not as easy as it ought to be. Seemingly she has disappeared from view completely not contacting any family or friends in all that time. So Bloom and Jameson set about finding more information on Artemis and its charismatic leader, American Paula Kunis.
There’s scant information available however and Augusta feels she has no option but to allow herself to be drawn in to the group. She embarks on a journey that takes her from London to Edinburgh and then to an Artemis retreat north of Inverness.
Isolated from Jameson and unable to communicate with the outside world – it’s a retreat where you give up all forms of electronic communication – Augusta finds herself surrounded by like-minded women but there’s something really unsettling about the whole set up.
Leona Deakin creates a compelling scenario where even Augusta’s sharp analytical brain has trouble working out what is going on. The women she meets have interesting stories and Artemis itself has aims she has no trouble agreeing with, but something is making her feel edgy and unsettled. Augusta, who is no stranger to power games, feels she is being played but to what ends?
Deakin explores the means and methods of cults in this tense and quite creepy read. There’s a great deal of darkness in this book and working out who is on the verge of madness and who is manipulative is all part of the fun in this eminently readable intense read.
With echoes of real life examples of cultism like Jonestown and Waco, Deakin builds a solid picture of cultism and its operational methods and it is very chilling reading. The combination of Augusta’s intellectual skills and Jameson’s spy craft make for a thoroughly entertaining read with a serious edge and there’s quite a twisty plot to go with it.
As with her previous books, this is a narrative driven book and you never really get to know what really makes Augusta tick. The reader needs a bit of suspension of disbelief and there’s an interesting edge to the ending which will undoubtedly play into the next book.
Verdict: Entertaining and enjoyable, creepy and suspenseful, Hunt is a pacy read that delivers action and thrills.
Leona Deakin started her career as a psychologist with the West Yorkshire Police. She is now an occupational psychologist and lives with her family in Leeds. She has written three novels in the acclaimed Dr Augusta Bloom series: Gone, Lost and Hunt.