Source: Review copy
Publication: 9th November 2017 Urbane Publications
DI Paul Snow has a personal secret. He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police force of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?
Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. It can be read as a stand alone, although I think the reader benefits from reading these in the order that the trilogy was published.
For these books, taken together, are a chilling look into what drives a serial killer.
The first book, Brothers in Blood, focuses on three young men who murder for kicks.In the second novel, Innocent Blood, the killer is a parent, who murders young children because they survived a bus crash in which his daughter died. In Blood Rites, the last of the trilogy , the killer murders those whom he believes deserve to die.
Eerily, the chills start with the opening prologue of Blood Rites, a passage which is repeated at the end of the book.
Blood Rites is not a long novel, but I found it to be quite a sad one, of its time and place, but that time and place was not a comfortable one for a gay detective in the Police force.
Paul Snow works hard at conforming and fitting in, though the truth is that he is already marked out by his superiors as a bit of a loner; a single man, and thus someone who will never be an insider.
Paul keeps his private life private, though in truth he doesn’t have much of a social life. In an effort to better fit in, he begins to date Matilda, the Headmistress of a local school. She is good company and he likes her, but struggles to find the heart to consummate their relationship. His new friendship, however, very quickly wins approval from his superiors, so Paul is caught in a trap of his own making.
Whilst Snow is on a date with Matilda, a mugger is knocked over and killed in a hit-and-run. The killer is delighted with the justice he believes he has meted and it is not long before more victims turn up dead.
For Snow, it is hard to find any connection between the victims though they are all killed in a similar fashion. Snow grows more frustrated as he strives to make the connection that will break the case, but he is also struggling with personal issues of his own which do not help.
When he is removed from the case for not being quick enough to catch the murderer, he doggedly continues his investigations in his own time; investigations which lead him into deep trouble.
I rather enjoyed this look back at the 80’s; a time of dinner dances and prawn cocktails, rampant sexism and macho police culture, pretty much all of it alien to Paul Snow. This serial killer was not predictable, though ultimately the identity was not difficult to fathom, but the whole book is an evocation of an era in the not very distant past, when life was not good for non conformists.
The insight into the killer’s mind is brutal and clear – and as indicated, taken together, these three books are an insightful study of serial killers.
About David Stuart Davies
David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.
David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and Sherlock Holmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.
He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’
David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.
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