Source: Review copy
Publication: 6TH February 2020 from Zaffre
Tom Killgannon, ex-undercover police officer and now in witness protection, is recalled to active service by a local police task force, headed by DS Sheridan. His mission is to befriend notorious child killer Noel Cunningham and find out where he buried the bodies of his final two victims.
The catch? Tom has to obtain that information from within Blackmoor prison itself.
Undercover and with no back-up, Tom soon runs into danger.
In the prison is convicted gangster Dean Foley. He used to run Manchester’s biggest gang, until Tom’s testimony put him away for life. He recognises Tom, and so begins a cat-and-mouse game as Tom fights for survival before Foley can get his revenge.
But why can’t Tom reach DS Sheridan and what is the real reason he has been sent to Blackmoor prison?
Following on from the stunning first Tom Kilgannon book, The Old Religion, The Sinner is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Readers don’t need to have read the first book, The Sinner works fine as a stand-alone.
Kilgannon is in witness protection in Cornwall but as a former police officer, he knows that he can be called back to duty if circumstances require it. So when DS Sheridan and DC Blake come to see him, they make it clear that his skills are required for an undercover job.
A child killer is currently serving life in Blackmoor prison and the authorities are keen to get him to say where he buried the bodies so that the families may get a degree of closure and be able to bury their children.
Kilgannon reluctantly agrees, but he’s not been in Blackmoor for long before he realises that he is inside with a dangerous enemy. Dean Foley is a hardened criminal and Tom is the man responsible for his sentence. Not only that, but Foley is the reason that Tom is in witness protection.
As not even the prison Governor is aware of his true identity, Kilgannon realises he has to make contact with his police handlers and get out fast. But DS Sheridan is adamant that Kilgannon has to see his role through and cuts off contact. Something is rotten in this relationship, but Kilgannon has more urgent things to deal with as it soon becomes apparent that Foley is the one who is really running this prison.
Not knowing who, if anyone, he can trust, Kilgannon must battle to survive in a deeply hostile climate whilst winning the trust of a child killer and hoping that he can find a way out of this situation.
Meanwhile, he has two people in Cornwall that he has left behind, one of them very vulnerable, but they stand out as pawns in a battle to get Kilgannon to do what his tormentors ask.
The Sinner does require a bit of a leap into suspension of disbelief, but once you have made the jump this is a fast-paced and thrilling read full of cross and double cross, duplicity, manipulation, lies and surprising twists.
Waites is excellent at conveying a nightmare scenario and then managing to ramp that up until it literally captures the reader’s breath as we wait for the devastating impact of events to strike.
His knowledge of prisons is very clear as he portrays a strong and convincing claustrophobic atmosphere in which alliances are everything and the price of life is as cheap as a packet of fags.
Verdict: Beautifully written, dark, tense and suspenseful with more thrills and spills than you could ask for. Well thought through psychology and a clear narrative structure infuse a classic cat and mouse game to expose double dealing and provide some surprising and dramatic moments.
Martyn Waites was born and raised in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He worked as a stagehand and teaching improvisational drama to teenage ex-offenders. Following this he went to drama school in Birmingham emerging to spend the next fifteen years as a theatre, TV and commercials performer. He has written nine novels under his own name and five under the name Tania Carver. He has been nominated for every major British crime fiction award, has been chosen as a Guardian Book of the Year and has won the Grand Prix du Roman Noir.