"Perfect Remains" Helen Fields
This is a brand new Detective series from Helen Fields and will be devoured by fans of crime thrillers. It's been compared to MJ Arlidge and I think it will definitely hold it's own against the bestselling authors in this genre.
Set in Scotland the book opens with the discovery of a body in the remote Highlands. All that is left to identify the victim are a fragment of clothing and a tooth. It appears to be the body of lawyer Elaine Buxton but then if it is, why is the real Elaine Buxton screaming in the darkness of a hidden room in Edinburgh? DI Luc Callanach, new to the area and the team investigating the crime, needs to prove himself but can he solve this mystery before any more women are abducted? This is a killer who covers his tracks with meticulous care and whose mind is more twisted than anyone first imagined.
Fields starts this Detective series with an engaging premise and a really gripping opening. This is a novel that is gruesome, quite graphic in places, violent, dark and with a character that redefines "menace".
What is unusual about Fields' detective book is that we know who the murderer is from the outset. We read chapters narrated by him, see his thoughts, watch his actions, get inside his disturbed head and more frighteningly know his name, meet his colleagues and follow him about his daily life - the public and the private! Although readers are often introduced to a chilling narrative from the murderers point of view, it's often anonymous so actually, it's a bit of a privilege to be given so much information about this character. Although it doesn't feel like it when you are reading it! I think this premise of knowing the captor from the outset is really interesting and begs questions about empathy, engagement and the sort of relationship the reader forms with him. How does it affect our reading of the novel and how does it affect the way we relate to his character, his actions and his victims?
But this really is not a character you want to really become involved in. As with all deliciously dangerous and dark criminals, he is warped, deluded and irrational. He also has the necessary intelligence and ability to appear publicly unassuming while working within a respectable, middle class profession.
He has a plan. He has a detailed, masterfully prepared and thoroughly considered plan. He is meticulous. He will not be caught. And like his chosen victim, he is "driven" and "constantly improving." Although initially appearing in control, he is subject to outbursts of extreme violence which are deeply unsettling and did make me want to turn away from the pages. But Fields is unflinching in her determination to make this book memorable and to make King a powerfully convincing and authentic murderer.
Her portrayal of him also means she has to create an equally memorable protagonist to eventually outwit him. And she does.
Detective Callanach is an interesting character. Half French and half Scottish, arriving from Lyon to start a new job in Edinburgh in a role that the rest of the team seem to begrudge ("How the hell did he end up walking straight into a detective inspector post?") it feels as if there is a lot stacked against him which immediately creates more tension and suspense within the novel. I enjoyed this angle of the book as we see the detective in a slightly different way to the more conventional way. We are used to detectives having emotional baggage and being disliked but Fields has presented us with something a little bit more refreshing here which certainly adds to the book.
There is also plenty here that intrigues the reader about the "clouds under which he'd left Lyon" and his backstory. There is plenty here to be explored over future instalments and provide plenty of character development.
However, in "Perfect Remains", Callanach's real challenge is whether or not he has the ability to solve this crime and track down a murderer who is experienced enough not to leave any clues or make any mistakes.
"There would be no fingerprints, he thought. A man who found such a perfect place to destroy a body didn't leave prints."
This is a well written debut and a great first instalment in what will surely be a successful series. The setting, characters, dialogue and action are all depicted well and although perhaps a little too brutal in places for me, it definitely has all the ingredients for a bestselling detective thriller. I think the fact the audience know the killer from the outset and that the detective is out of his comfort zone create an exciting dynamic.
And to be honest, with a cover like that, there is no way any lover of crime, suspense, murder and detective novels will be able to walk past it!
"Perfect Remains" will be published on 26th January by Avon.
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