When a group of urban explorers stumble across a murderer’s kill room in a derelict film studio, terror strikes. And when one of the group is found dead, the team realise – they’re being hunted.
DI Dominic Bell is investigating the murder, but as the body count rises, time is running out. The only person who can help him is Dominic’s ex, Clementine Starke – but Clementine is haunted by her own demons. Can the two of them pair up to catch the killer? Or is it already too late?
It seems pretty straightforward. Take one hapless, lovelorn and stressed out detective, D.I. Dominic Bell. Give him a work environment where he knows corruption is rife and everyone is a suspect, adding to his stress levels. Pair him with Clementine Stark, PhD student and True Crime aficionado, who is both studying obsession in online behaviour and obsessively trying to solve her father’s murder. Then offer up a series of gruesome murders happening to a group of urban explorers who fall into the realm of Clementine’s study area and you just know that these two are going to end up chasing the same killer.
I think it really does help if you have read the first book in the series, because this series sings because of the relationship between Dominic and Clementine. It’s far from conventional and in Clementine’s case it looks like it’s also becoming a little obsessional. The nearest comparison I can come to is the relationship between John Luther and Alice Morgan in the TV series, Luther.
The main crime story is well written, dark and as twisted as you would expect. A serial killer is stalking and killing urban explorers in dark, creepy places. Clementine is on their track, but Dom is avoiding her calls. He’s up to his neck worrying about corruption in his team and who is involved – but he doesn’t know who to trust.
The last thing he needs is for his ex to re-enter his life, especially after everything they have been through. So he’s blocked her, but that may not prove to be his wisest move.
As the body count grows and Clementine’s frantic efforts to get through to him eventually pay dividends, he finds himself embroiled in a moral maze. If only he could see clearly enough to work his way out of it.
Clementine is such a morally ambiguous character she is absolutely transfixing me. Watching Dominic and Clementine together is a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion. You know you ought to be able to stop it, but the force is just too great and there is going to be an almighty bang whatever you do.
I have no idea where Stephanie Marland is going to take this pair, but my goodness it is guaranteed to be a bumpy ride and that makes it all the more compelling.
Verdict: A dark and twisted thriller packed with fascinating characters and morally challenging perspectives.