Source: Review copy
Publication: 31 May 2019 from Killer Reads
A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.
The killer is just getting started…
When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.
The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.
And he is Lucy’s husband.
Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?
I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be posting my review of Dead Inside by Noelle Holten on publication day. Noelle Holten is the Queen of Crime bloggers and Dead Inside is her debut novel. What a cracker it is, too.
So a very happy publication day, Noelle and here are my thoughts on Dead Inside.
DC Maggie Jamieson has recently transferred to Staffordshire’s Domestic Abuse & Homicide Unit, following on from working a difficult case involving someone called Bill Raven. The team are a little surprised at the use of the American ‘Homicide’ term, but as someone points out, using murder instead would have produced an unfortunate acronym….
Lucy Sherwood is a probation officer who works with domestic abusers, a difficult and demanding job which requires her to come face to face with some pretty violent criminals, so you know she’s no shrinking violet. Yet Lucy herself is in an abusive marriage to Patrick Quinn. Lucy is capable, intelligent and holding down a very responsible job. So why doesn’t she leave?
Here Holten shows her extensive experience as a probation officer with knowledge of domestic and sexual abuse as she authentically portrays the different kinds of relationships that abused women are in and why they are often caught between a rock and a hard place when trying to work out what to do.
Lucy works closely with the police, reporting on offenders who have breached their parole orders and ensuring that when that happens, abused women are checked on.
Then clients start to show up murdered in the most brutal of ways. It’s clear early on that their partners can be cleared of any involvement and so for murdered, Maggie and her team the puzzling question is – who else had a motive?
Holten portrays with stark and haunting accuracy the relationships between abused and abuser and her understanding of the passing of the generational baton from father to son is both horrifying and emotionally harrowing.
As Maggie and Lucy, together with a compellingly drawn cast of the DAHU team members, investigate the lives of the murdered abusers, it is impossible not to speculate that this is a killer with a vigilante purpose, intent on taking revenge.
Holten creates an interesting team. I especially loved the portrayal of criminal psychologist Kate, with her flamboyant personality and the rest of the team are well drawn and set the scene for the establishment of this newish unit struggling with trying to make the multi-agency approach work, at the heart of Staffordshire’s criminal justice system.
Holten’s portrayal of the lives of the (sometimes barely) survivors and abusers is harrowing and feels deeply rooted in reality; these are women from all walks of life whose personal circumstances are forever blighted by the relationships they are forced to endure.
As Maggie and her team investigate the murders, one more takes place. This time it is Lucy’s husband, Patrick. Suddenly Lucy herself is in the epi-centre of police enquiries. Not only did she have first-hand knowledge of each of these men and their crimes, the case can be made that her own experience caused her to snap and take action.
Lucy herself is saying nothing, claiming to barely remember the moment when her husband Patrick died, but there’s no escaping her access to motive and opportunity.
Holten skillfully creates an atmosphere that is tense and full of mistrust. Lucy, in particular, comes across as capable, yet unable to reconcile her tough working persona with her abusive relationship.
I’m looking forward to learning more about DC Maggie Jamieson, whose character will undoubtedly be further fleshed out in the next in the series, which Holten has cleverly set up at the end of this book.
Verdict: A terrific well-paced debut that is tense, dark, claustrophobic and in places very harrowing.
Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at http://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.