#TheDeathsofDecember #SusiHolliday #BlogTour
*My huge thanks to Rosie Stephen and Mulholland Books for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review and for taking part in the Blog Tour.*
Well, quite frankly, isn't this the best looking cover for a Christmas murder story that you've seen, like, ever? It's a stunning design; simple, yet tantalising. And I love the title and I love the premise. Susi Holliday has done it again. Whatever else you ask for this Christmas, make sure this book finds its way under your tree!
Holliday has struck red, silver, green and gold with this new stand alone crime thriller. The story is about an advent calendar that arrives at the police station and as DC Becky Greene starts opening its doors, she realises that this is no ordinary advent calendar nor, sadly, is it a prank. Behind every door is a photo of a crime scene. This is an advent calendar from a serial killer who has been killing for twenty years.
An advent calendar with four doors left. Four more murders.
Unless DC Becky Greene and DS Eddie Carmine can catch the killer in time...
What a genius idea! As soon as I heard the concept for this murder story I was hooked and desperate to read The Deaths of December. I have read, and loved, Holliday's Banktoun trilogy and I am a huge admirer of her writing style so there was no doubt in my mind that this festive novel would be as deadly and as compelling as her other books.
The book is divided up into 'days' so we start on Friday - or 'nine more sleeps' as it is subtitled. I liked the use of 'sleeps' here as it is loaded with suggestions of excitement and a childlike countdown to a special celebration but also suggests death. I like the juxtaposition of something so naive, childlike and positive used as in a more sinister context. It also immediately creates a sense of pace, threat and tension with the 'ticking clock' and race against time to solve the crime.
The chapters are narrated by Becky, Carly, Eddie and The Photographer; the latter is the only one which uses first person. The Photographer is anonymous but it is not long before we realise his role in the story. The first person narrative is used effectively to create a more intimate voice and emphasise a greater sense of unease and the anonymity of the voice is unsettling as well as intriguing. The chapters alternate between these four voices so it is impossible to stop reading as you are keen to link the narratives together and always tempted to read on and find out the next part of the story. And with several different narrative view points, Holliday is also able to add depth and several plot lines that string themselves across the page like contrasting ribbons of tinsel adorning a Christmas tree. As two of the voices are the detectives investigating the case there is a perfect balance between the police procedural storyline and the more emotional or psychological storyline that is revealed through the photographer and Carly. Each voice is distinctive, different and well developed and each chapter is well structured and perfectly placed to maintain tension, engagement and cohesion.
Holliday has a talent for creating believable, authentic and down to earth characters who feel like very real people. It is easy to form a relationship with the protagonists. She has knack for creating three dimensional characters through careful use of specific detail and observations. Holliday's characters are easy to align yourself with so you invest quickly and want to stay with them until the end of the book. She also avoids stereotypes and cliches. For example, Becky is a great balance of a detective who is diligent, intelligent and yet cautious or with the suggestion of more emotion fragility. I thought she had a strong voice and would love to meet her again in another story.
The other character I enjoyed was The Photographer. Although we can guess that this must be the voice of the perpetrator, Holliday does not make it easy for us. This character is really interesting. He challenges the reader, he speaks directly to the reader and as the novel continues - particularly towards the end - he reveals himself not to fulfil the conventions of a serial killer. He challenges the reader's empathy and attitude towards him and it is thought provoking. I think it is really interesting that this is the one character Holliday chose to write from first person as this makes the character more immediate to the reader and encourages the reader to become more involved with his voice, point of view and internal thoughts. Although this is a detective fiction novel, Holliday has definitely added plenty of grey (or red and green?!) into this story and the voice of the Photographer is a fascinating device for adding further psychological complication to the plot.
This is a superb police procedural. It is faultless and fluent in it's execution of story, plot, action and resolution. It is well researched, it is exciting and dramatic and it is well paced. I think the thing I enjoyed most was the readability, the fluidity, the ease and effortlessness of the writing and dialogue. I lost all sense of time when I was reading this book and enjoyed indulging in such a clever, well designed detective investigation. It's the perfect read for Christmas and will be a brilliant book to read over the festive season.
It also has a fantastic ending. Like, a really fantastic ending!
The Deaths of December is definitely the book to read this Christmas and should be waiting the tree of any crime fiction fan this Christmas Eve - however many sleeps that may be!
The Deaths of December is published by Mulholland Books on 16th November 2017.
Don't miss the rest of the Blog Tour with more reviews and more guest posts from Susi herself!
Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up near Edinburgh and spent many years working in her family’s newsagent and pub before studying microbiology and statistics at university. She has worked as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry for over 16 years, but it was on a 6-month round-the-world-trip that she took with her husband 10 years ago that she rediscovered her passion for writing. Her first novel, BLACK WOOD was published in 2015, the second, WILLOW WALK in June 2016, and the third, THE DAMSELFLY in February 2017. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com, or on Twitter and Facebook @SJIHolliday.
You can read my reviews of Susi's other books here:
Susi is also coming along to my next author event in Harpenden and I can't wait to hear more about the inspiration for this novel!