"Outside Looking In" by Michael Wood
I am absolutely delighted to kick off Michael Wood's Blog Tour for "Outside Looking In" published by Killer Reads and currently available on Kindle for the bargain price of £1.99. The paperback will be released on July 28th. My thanks to Michael and his publishers for giving me such an honour!
This is the second book in Michael Wood’s compelling new crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, and James Oswald.
There is no time to settle in gently to this story - Wood throws you straight in to a graphic scene of an injured woman with horrific injuries in a car outside an elderly couple's house. Before you can pause for breath, the reader is pushed on to the next chapter which is all about the disappearance of 7 year old Carl Meagan and the murder of his grandmother. Carl's parents, Philip and Sally, blame South Yorkshire Police and DCI Matilda Darke for failing to solve this case. For Darke, Carl was the starting point of "a year long nightmare that snowballed into a cataclysm of self destruction". Here Wood begins to pick up on the back story of Darke which is hinted at in the first book "Unknown." We are reminded that her husband died 12 months ago from a brain tumour and that this personal loss had a devastating effect on her professional judgement in a way that would stay with her for the rest of her life. This recap also means that this novel works as a stand alone as well as a much anticipated sequel. However, I would recommend that you did read book one first so that the dramatic denouement retains its powerful effect!
Wood then continues to add layer upon layer to his accomplished detective thriller by introducing several other serious crimes and shocking incidents. Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker are found bludgeoned and shot to death. There are reports of aggravated burglary, a body thrown from a roof, more shootings and evidence of extortion. Matilda Darke struggles to stay on top of the increasingly complicated events, making colossal effort to work out a link between all the victims and prove not only to the newspapers but also to her superiors and colleagues, that she is still an effective, credible, capable detective, deserving of their respect. This is a gripping story full of seemingly unconnected motives and crimes that are in fact connected - if only Darke can solve the puzzle in time.
Darke is as believable as she was in book one. Her character is developed really well and responds to the reader's eagerness to learn more about her. As permitted with a sequel, Wood spends more time letting the reader find out more about her backstory and personal life. I like the conflict she represents- she is a good detective but everyone is against her, wishing her to fail. She is plagued and haunted by the death of her husband and the huge psychological effect this has had on her. We know she is dedicated, hard working, thorough and clever but simultaneously are privy to her failings and weaknesses. She is fallible and there is part of the reader that wonders whether she should be at work and whether she truly is up to the demands of the job. We worry that she might lose her grip, that she might make mistakes, that the journalists may be rewarded for their smug criticisms but all along want her to succeed and know that she can. The incorporation of her therapy sessions is interesting and perhaps as well as breaking up the intensity of the brutal crimes, it also acts as a clever device allowing Wood to reveal what she is going through. Unbeknown to the rest of the department, Darke is also secretly dealing with personal threats and stalking. Her mental health issues raise questions within the reader's mind which results in a compelling sub plot and cleverly supports the ever growing tension within the main murder investigation. It is unusual to see our heroines so vulnerable and exposed. It is unusual to see such fragility. I particularly liked the description that "she tried to get things in perspective but nothing was fitting. It was like she had all the pieces of the jigsaw but they were from different boxes."Her private struggle and persistence to solve the crime are admirable and show her to be a character of grit who is being unfairly criticised by the police force. I think it is interesting to meet a protagonist who feels such intense guilt and responsibility about solving the crime and who puts themselves under such pressure. Ultimately, Darke is brave, honest, committed and full of integrity.
The short chapters encourage the reader to fly through the pages as there is a relentless progression and escalation of twists and turns. The dialogue is well paced and accurately captures all of the many characters who become involved in this complex narrative. As the thriller continues, the links to the first book become more important as Wood begins to pick up lose threads and pull them together and there are some fantastic revelations towards the end of the story. There is a huge cast of victims, police officers, witnesses, criminals and suspects in this book and all are fully developed, three dimensional, purposeful characters.
The ending is excellent. I thought the story was resolved and finished.....but no, there were more shocking twists and turns to follow in a nail biting climax! Even in the final page of the Epilogue, Wood can't resist a further revelation that lay the path for another book and another thrilling outing for Matilda Darke. I can not wait.
Wood is a cruel tease. He knows how to captivate, control and manipulate his readers. He has left me hungry for more and I'm sure you will be too! This is a series that is definitely worth investing in - financially and mentally!
Please search for my post "For Reasons Unknown" for a review of the first book in this series and have a look at the banner below to follow the tour for more reviews, Q&As and interviews! http://bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.com/2016/05/for-reasons-unknown-michael-wood.html
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