Source: Purchased copy and review copy
Publication: 30 May 2023 (e-book) and 8 June (p/back) from One More Chapter
My thanks to One More Chapter for an advance copy for review
On a cold February afternoon in 1990, seven-year-old Danny Redpath disappeared from his home. Four months later, his body was found in the nearby forest, wrapped in a sheet and washed clean of all evidence.
Apprehended while attempting to abduct another child, Jonathan Egan-Walsh was charged with the murders of more than a dozen boys. Convicted on all counts, he received life in prison and went unrepentant, still refusing to reveal the whereabouts of one of his victims, Zachery Marshall.
Twenty-five years later, Zachery’s mother Diane is still searching for his body. When Jonathan dies in custody, she realises she will never know its location – until she receives a letter he left in his cell, in which he admits he was guilty of all the crimes of which he was accused, except the murder of her son…
I was only one page into this review copy when I realised I knew this story. In fact I realised I had bought and listened to the audiobook when it came out in 2020. Only now is it being released in paperback and e-book though.
Like Michael Wood’s D.C.I. Matilda Darke series, this is a really fast and easy read with terrific characters, a strong storyline and a seriously horrible villain.
Diane Marshall’s son Zachery disappeared over 25 years ago and his body has never been found. The police believe he was the victim of a serial killer, Jonathan Egan Walsh, convicted of killing thirteen other boys whose bodies were discovered, wrapped in a white sheet. Egan Walsh has been in prison since his conviction but will not disclose where Zachery is buried, nor will he confess to his murder.
All Diane wants is to be able to bring her son’s body home and bury him in peace. Since Zachery’s disappearance her marriage has broken up and she is also estranged from her other son – all because she has been unable to move on from the grief of losing Zachery.
Now Jonathan, who has terminal cancer, has written to Diane confessing to the murder of thirteen children but saying he did not murder Zachery.
The police aren’t inclined to investigate: Jonathan was notorious for messing with the minds of his victims parents and this is likely just another example of his specialty cruelty.
But Diane can’t let it go and so she enlists the help of the now retired DI Caroline Turner, who originally investigated the case and is now running a dog walking business. Caroline gave up working for the police after a bad experience while working this case.
Caroline teams up with Alex Frost, Jonathan’s biographer who now wants to write a second book on Jonathan Egan Walsh and together they set out to find the truth by re-investigating this case from the beginning.
Michael Wood does an excellent job of creating the character of Diane and of conveying the anguish and interminable pain that she feels. His understanding of the way in which a series of murders, or indeed any murder, can impact on all those involved is really well done and the emotional impact resonates well with each of these characters.
This is a deeply disturbing story and Wood creates palpable tension alongside heart-breaking pain as more revelations come to light.
The conclusion, though not hard to detect, comes after a slew of more disturbing revelations and leaves the reader feeling heart-broken for everyone involved.
Verdict: A tense and emotional read with strong characterisation.
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Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Newcastle. As a journalist he covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, where his DCI Matilda Darke series is set, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.