YOU HAVE SIX SECONDS TO READ THIS MESSAGE…
The body of a 15-year-old is found hours after she sends a desperate message to her friends. It looks like suicide, until a second girl disappears.
This time, the message is sent directly to the Metropolitan Police – and an officer’s younger sister is missing.
DS Nasreen Cudmore and journalist Freddie Venton will stop at nothing to find her. But whoever’s behind the notes is playing a deadly game of hide and seek – and the clock is ticking.
YOU HAVE 24 HOURS TO SAVE THE GIRL’S LIFE. MAKE THEM COUNT.
This is Angela Clarke's second instalment in the Social Media Murders series and a very strong sequel to "Follow Me".
Clarke does not disappoint with this engaging crime thriller. It is as fast paced, as edgy, as contemporary and hard-hitting as "Follow Me". It continues to excite readers as its two main protagonists constantly come face to face with professional and personal dilemmas, conflict and emotional turmoil as they race to solve the cyber crimes while at the same time as addressing their own pasts, their own secrets and their own guilt which keeps coming back to haunt them and link them to the murders they are now trying to prevent.
Although this could work as a stand alone novel, I do think it would be better to read in sequence - which won't be difficult as once you open up a book by Clarke, she drags you in immediately, pulls you along at brake neck speed until before you know it, you're fully immersed in her vivid and colourful world of punchy dialogue, action, excitement and feisty characters who leap off the page.
"Follow Me" is centres around Twitter and is about the appropriately named Hashtag Murderer who uses their followers and tweets to reveal their motives, clues and movements. "Watch Me" explores Snap Chat which I found really interesting as this is the favoured social media platform of my children's peer group and I have already experienced (second hand thankfully) some of the effects of its misuse, so to see it dramatised here into something even more sinister was fascinating and doubly chilling. Snap Chat seems to feel a little more sinister than Facebook or Twitter because of its premise (the posts disappear within 8 seconds or something equally short, but people are poised ready to screen shot them and then can keep them viral for as long as they like).
"You've got 6 seconds to view this. Her school uniform felt like it was tightening, her white shirt compressing, her striped tie snaking around her neck. Her mind scrabbled for normality. Five seconds. Her hand shook. Her fingers didn't respond. Four seconds................One second. From deep inside the command grew, forcing its way up and out of her, juddering her whole body. 'Mum!' she screamed. And the photo vanished."
I think we are all also aware of how easily comments and posts on social media can let people pose as someone else, be anonymous, be unpleasant, make a huge network of virtual friends and allow situations to get out of control. The opening of "Watch Me" is about DS Nasreen's email that accidentally gets sent to the wrong recipients and that horrible sense of dread and disaster that comes from pressing the wrong button too soon or even assuming that anything sent online can be trusted to only reach that one person it is addressed to. On this much lower, less sinister level than what then goes on to unfold in the story, we can all relate to how 'deadly' the internet can be and I think that is what makes Clarke's novels so appealing to people.
I absolutely admire Clarke's knowledge of IT and can only imagine the level of research that went into making this novel so authentic and technically accurate. There is technical jargon and there are lots of conversation and explanation of technology, IT and social media but it is all relevant and all presented in an accessible and easily to follow manner. I thought it was really interesting to see a crime novel replace the forensic terminology from a physical crime scene to a new kind of forensic vocabulary as the police analyse the more virtual world of social media and iPhones, laptops, computers and people's online profile.
"Follow Me" centres around journalist Freddie Venton and I liked the fact that "Watch Me" spends more time developing DS Nasreen Cudmore's character and that the readers get to learn more about her and particularly at the beginning, see more of the story from her point of view. Nasreen is earnest, hardworking, sincere and dedicated which contrasts - and compliments- Freddie's more maverick side.
"It was one of the reasons she was good at her job: she liked to know why, liked to ask questions, put things, and people, where they belonged. Uncertainty was what life gave you; order was what you made with it."
Nasreen is painfully aware of her reputation and about the judgment from her peers. The opening of the novel shows us Nasreen at a more vulnerable, emotionally fragile place which ensures an immediate sympathy, empathy and interest in her character.
"..she'd played right into their hands. Idiot. Could she call in sick?........Nasreen's need to people please still overrode everything else."
Nasreen and Freddie share a dark secret that will forever bind them together. They are both flawed, guilty, responsible and the fact that they are called in to work on a teen suicide creates an extra layer of tension. When they were teenagers themselves, they were blamed for causing the suicide of a school acquaintance (revealed in "Follow Me"). Nasreen's anxiety is therefore heightened from the outset although she remains profession and reveals her knowledge (and Clarke's knowledge too) of teen suicide with a reference to "the Werther effect" during the initial police meeting.
When we are reintroduced to Freddie she is still reeling from the events of "Follow Me" - with a quick reminder of the key details for all of us! Clarke's continuity is flawless and also compounds the sense that this is a fast paced series. Freddie is a bit of an internet guru - making her the perfect team mate in this investigation. I liked the way her need for the internet is presented a bit like an addiction, reminding us of its power; its use for good and its use for bad.
"She needed the internet. All that information at her fingertips. All that power."
The dynamics between the women is really interesting. They are quite different kind of characters but yet need each other for different reasons. The added complication of a shared past brings a fresh angle to the idea of a detective partnership. The journalistic skill of Freddie and the more traditional conservative investigative skills of Nasreen also make a great combination.
"[Freddie was good at] ....seeing it from two steps back, making it fit a story. It was a good trick to have....flippant remarks, black humour; a good coping mechanism. But it was one Nasreen didn't like. It was important not to lose sight of the human cost at the heart of their cases. That was what drove you on, made you look longer, harder, keep trying."
The most enjoyable thing about the novel is its cracking sense of pace. All successful crime thrillers need some kind of countdown - some kind of reminder that everyone is working against the clock to stop any more murders and Clarke does this with her chapter headings. The whole story takes place over just a couple of days and the opening chapter header reminds us just how many of the 24 hours are left until the murderer will carry out their threat.
"Wednesday 16th March, 16.20, T-17 hrs 10 mins"
The sense of pace is also emphasised constantly through the very nature of Snap Chat:
"her brain crackled. This wasn't a wind up. This was a threat. Her fingers flew. Four, three, two.....she screenshot the image, taking a photo of it half a second before it disappeared forever."
I enjoyed this crime thriller a lot. It is relevant, exciting, chilling and dramatic. There is mystery, suspense, fear and plenty of threat. Once again, I look forward to the next instalment and hope that there are more Social Media Murders to come. Freddie and Nasreen have a lot of potential for a long term working partnership and I would like to see more about their relationship developing as they solve more crimes together. I like the very contemporary appeal of the books and think that Clarke has tapped into something which fascinates all of us that use social media - and perhaps those that don't too!
However, don't let this book may affect your own use of the internet. .....! Next time you log on, keep your fingers crossed that the following words do not appear on your screen:
"Who wants to play?"
"Watch Me" is published on12th January by Avon.
For my review of "Follow Me" please click here:
If you like the sound of this book you could also try:
- Viral by Helen Fitzgerald
- Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan
- The Good Girl by Fiona Neill
If you would like to see more of my recommendations and reviews you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)