#Review A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood
This is the third book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke.
Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…
Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.
When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.
There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…
Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.
The prologue for this third instalment in what is fast becoming one of my "go to" detective series, opens with the most chilling and gruesome description worthy of any horror movie.
"It wasn't water pooling on the coffee table. It wasn't water dripping and splashing all over the cream carpet. It was blood. I looked up at the light; the surrounding ceiling was a mass of blood. It was dripping down, splattering against the glass, bouncing off and soaking the carpet."
I was hooked.
Repulsed. Shocked. But hooked.
It is was impossible not to read straight on - well, not impossible, I did have to double check all the doors and windows were locked first! But once I'd read Chapter One, I was well and truly 'in'! Wood's style of writing is immediately engaging and well paced. He quickly establishes an great premise for a crime novel and introduces us to his main character who is full of their own personal ghosts, grief and traumas. He reminds us of the protagonist's previous case history and the hurt, anguish and anger it has caused for all involved.
"Matilda, an advanced copy just for you. May it give you as many sleepless nights as it's given me."
Elly Griffiths says that DCI Matilda Darke is the perfect heroine and she is right. Darke presents herself as cold and hard hearted but she is not.
"The fact the body, in this instance, was that of a convicted killer made no difference. He was still someone's son."
She is hounded and haunted by her mistakes in the past - if you've followed the series from the beginning you will be familiar with the backstory of Matilda but Wood ably recaps and makes sure any reader is up to speed with what has come before without hindering our enjoyment or distracting us from this book. We continue to see how the effects of Darke's handling of the Carl Meagan case still follow her everywhere and how hard she has to work to prove herself again -not only to her colleagues but also to herself. I think this is a really interesting aspect of the story and it was great to see Matilda -all the key characters- really developing as the series strides confidently into its third instalment.
Darke is careful, thoughtful, considered and intelligent. She is dedicated and the reader is always rooting for her. She is easy to relate to and empathise with.
"If we don't understand the message straightaway, there'll be another body."
There is no doubt that Matilda will solve this case. She will seek out any secret, however deeply buried and however disturbing and dark.
And watch out, this really is a novel of deeply disturbing crimes and it is very dark. "A Room Full of Killers" has a cast of not one but eight killers; all evoked with the same chilling, unnerving and spine tingling fright that will haunt you long after you close the last page. Personally, although I enjoyed the chapters from Matilda and the investigation, I really enjoyed the chapters from the boys who live at Starling House. They were utterly compelling.
"I had a whole year to plan my crime and choose my victims. It didn't take long to come up with my younger brother, Jason. I've never liked him."
The use of first person is so effective and a great contrast between the sections from the third person narrative which follows Matilda. Wood challenges himself by writing from several different of the boys' points of view, but each is different and individual. The sense of psychological terror is maintained throughout every single stage of the story.
And it is psychologically terrifying.
"I can't actually remember what happened next. One minute I was lying in bed, the next I was turning on the gas canisters for the stove. I didn't think of the consequences until afterwards but I'm not sorry. They were suffocating me."
This is a very readable, very gripping, very satisfying crime novel that does everything you want from any detective book. Wood raises some questions about nature and nurture, whether evil is inherent, if there is such thing as redemption as well as all the usual questions about good, bad, victim and villain. I think the focus on the behaviour of such young boys and organisation of the institution they are part of opens such an interesting discussion and allows Wood to explore some really challenging yet fascinating themes and ideas.
It's a good read. If you love crime, detectives, murder and a generous helping of violence, then this is the book for you! It works well as a stand alone but I would recommend that once you've read this one, you go back and start the series from the beginning. Wood is a clever writer and I have really enjoyed following his series. He deserves success with Matilda Darke and I'm certain he'll get it!
"A Room Full of Killers" is published on 17th February by Killer Reads.
You can follow Michael Wood on Twitter @MichaelHWood
Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.
For more recommendations and reviews, you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)