Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 February 2021 from Hodder & Stoughton
My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review
Leave your daughter with me, or I will kill you both’
It felt like a normal Friday evening before Karl and his daughter Leah were ambushed by a figure in a blank mask. At knife point, Karl is forced to make an impossible choice. Stay and die, or walk away from Leah and take this thug’s word that they both will live.Should Karl trust a villain and leave his daughter with a knife at her throat? Could he ever live with himself if he did?
It’s not long before more seemingly unconnected and innocent people across London are offered a deal in exchange for their life. More blood is spilled, more families shattered, and more people are left to suffer with the consequences of their decisions.
DI Alex Finn and DC Mattie Paulsen must hunt for a killer that appears to have no face, no motive and no conscience before more victims are forced to make their choice.
The Killing Choice is the second in the DI Alex Finn series, following on from The Burning Man. It can happily be read as a stand-alone, though I’d urge you to read The Burning Man as there will be character progression cross the series and it’s always good to get in early. I believe this is a series that will stand the test of time as the characters are grounded in reality and Shindler’s sense of place is excellent.
Karl Suleman and his daughter Leah are on their way to a father/daughter date night at a London restaurant when they are ambushed by a lone figure with a strange, faceless visor, who is armed with a zombie knife. London is of course, the capital of knife crime and when the masked figure gives Karl a choice – leave and I’ll rape your daughter or stay and I will kill you both, Karl looks at his daughter who urges him to go and so he runs, looking for help in the hope that he can get it for Leah before the masked figure does his worst.
Haunted with guilt, Karl has difficulty coming to terms with the choice he was offered and the decision he made. Nor can his wife understand it. DI Alex Finn and his colleagues DC Mattie Paulson and DS Jackie Ojo investigate. Is this case somehow related to the problems they have been having with rival County lines drugs gangs which are prevalent on the housing estates in their patch? Turf wars are reaching new heights and violence is spilling into the streets.
Then another family is targeted and another choice is offered. DI Alex Finn is struggling. Though his team has his back, he knows he’s not operating at his best and worse, his boss knows it too. Struggling with the death of his wife Karin, Finn’s thinking is clouded and he knows he should be spotting connections between the victims and their families but he just can’t get his head in the right space to think clearly.
Mattie Paulson takes more of a role in this book and it’s good to understand a bit more about the team and its individual players. She has her own troubled past and now new family troubles to deal with and we see her trying to deal with these family issues at the same time as she is trying out a new aspect of the job; being a family liaison officer where she can’t allow her emotions to come into play. Mattie’s always been a bit of a loner and this job is not really in her comfort zone. The press is having a field day, passing judgement on Karl for making his choice and Mattie who is not really comfortable where she isn’t wanted, finds herself second guessing her own actions and wondering what she could have done differently.
Paulsen and Finn have each other’s backs, but both find themselves struggling somewhat in a story that is all about family and the choices we make and how easy we all find it to pass judgement on others.
Meanwhile, in the South East London Hope Estate the drug wars continue and as Finn struggles to see what connection with drugs if any there might be, another struggle is playing out between Isaiah Sims and his sons Hayden and Michael.
Shindler paces the book really well enabling the tension to build as the murders continue and the team, desperate to stop them, search for answers while not seeing or understanding where the connection and motivation lies.
Verdict: Well plotted with nicely drawn characters who feel believable, this is a tense and twisting novel that strikes just the right balance between plot and character, resulting in a well-honed book that captures the imagination and holds attention. Most enjoyable.
Will Shindler has been a Broadcast Journalist for the BBC for over twenty-five years, spending a decade working in television drama as a scriptwriter on Born and Bred, The Bill and Doctors. His time on these leading prime time dramas has given him a rich grounding in authentic police procedure, powerful character development and gripping narratives. He currently combines reading the news on BBC Radio London with writing crime novels and has previously worked as a television presenter for HTV, a sports reporter for BBC Radio Five Live, and one of the stadium presenters at the London Olympics. He is the writer of The Burning Men and The Killing Choice.