Dark Truths by A.J. Cross @severnhouse #DarkTruths

Source: Review copy
Publication: 30 September 2019 in the UK and 7 Jan 2020 in the US from Severn House
PP: 240
ISBN-13: 978-0727889065

Introducing criminologist Will Traynor in the first of a gripping new forensic mystery series from an expert in the field.

When a headless body is discovered on a popular jogging trail, Detective Inspector Bernard Watts and his team are plunged headlong into a baffling murder investigation. Why would someone stab to death a young woman on her daily run – and take her head?

When a close examination of the crime scene results in a shocking discovery linking the present murder to a past crime, criminologist Will Traynor is brought in to assist the police. Aware of Traynor’s troubled past and already having to deal with inexperienced rookie PC Chloe Judd on his team, Watts is sceptical that Traynor will bring anything useful to the investigation.

He’s about to be proved very wrong …

Dark Truths is billed as the first in a forensic criminology series, and that’s what we get, an introduction, because Will Traynor is not the central figure in this police procedural/serial killer mystery.

DI Bernard Watts has been languishing in the Unsolved Crimes Unit of the West Midlands Police, but when it is disbanded, Acting Chief Inspector Brophy brings him in to head up the hunt for the brutal killer of Zoe Roberts, a young woman jogger who has been murdered and decapitated.

Brophy instructs Watts to take on a rookie, PC Chloe Judd who is characterised both by her keenness and by her high opinion of her own abilities, something that quickly gets up Watts’ nose. Though she is a P.C., Chloe takes on more of a D.C. role.

The final key player in this team is criminologist Will Traynor. Brophy believes Traynor can bring fresh insights into the team but Traynor is a damaged shadow of his former self.  His wife disappeared some ten years ago, presumed dead, but her body was never found.  He is still obsessed with finding her and this impacts on his ability to form a clear picture of the investigation. During the course of this investigation he will see links to his wife where none exist, which makes Watts’ life even more difficult.

When more heads are discovered near the site of the jogger’s body in the stifling summer heat, it is clear that the team have a serial killer on their hands. Watts believes there must be a link between these deaths but he and Judd have difficulty in making the connections they need, not helped by Judd’s  excessive enthusiasm; she is a character who is determined to prove herself, even if that gets in the way of police procedure, and the case suffers as a result.

Judd’s backstory is an interesting one and makes her a character that it is possible to have some empathy with, while Watts is more of a closed book.  Pathologist Dr. Connie Chong is a nice addition to the case, with a rather more cheerful demeanour than her colleagues.

Dark Truths is a solid police procedural mystery which relies on detailed examination of the evidence and A.J. Cross’s familiarity with forensic evidence adds authenticity to the story.

She provides a range of suspects to keep the reader guessing and delivers a well thought through puzzle for the reader to enjoy, albeit that the pace is sometimes quite slow.

Verdict: An interesting start to a new team of investigators. I hope we will see these characters further fleshed out and more character development in future series.

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A.J. Cross, like her heroine Kate Hanson, is a Forensic Psychologist with over twenty years’ experience in the field. She lives in Birmingham with her jazz-musician husband and is the author of two previous Dr Kate Hanson Cold Case mysteries.

A.J. Cross, like her heroine Kate Hanson, is a Forensic Psychologist with over twenty years’ experience in the field. She lives in Birmingham with her jazz-musician husband and is the author of two previous Dr Kate Hanson Cold Case mysteries.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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