I read a great deal of crime fiction but very rarely write about it here. For the most part this is because it is so difficult to say anything too detailed about a work without spoiling it for other readers. Just occasionally, if I’m honest, it’s because there isn’t very much to say. However, when it comes to a new S J Bolton novel this is an event that cannot be allowed to go unmarked. Of all the more recent arrivals on the crime scene she is, in my opinion, the pick of the bunch and her latest book, Like This, For Ever, only serves to reinforce my view.
I was fortunate enough to read a review of Bolton’s first novel, Sacrifice, when it was issued, so I’ve been along for this particular ride from the beginning. Like the two books that succeeded it, Sacrifice was a one off, set on a remote Shetland Isle and dealing with a situation so horrendous that it was hard to admit that it was possible to imagine it might actually come to pass.
I was sorry to leave the characters from Sacrifice behind and so when number four, Now You See Me, turned up in 2011 and it was a police procedural, I hardly dared hope that the author would let us hang around with Lacey, Mark and Dana a while longer, but she has done just that and so Like This, For Ever, is the third full length novel in the series, the fourth book if you count the Amazon single, If Snow Hadn’t Fallen.
Like the first in the sequence, Like This, For Ever is set in London and also concerns a serial killer, this time one who is fixated on boys of ten and eleven. Still recovering from the trauma of the case she was involved in Cambridge, Lacey Flint is not officially attached to the investigation but can’t help getting caught up in the inquiry when it seems that her ten year old neighbour, Barney, may know more than he his telling.
Much of the early part of the novel is seen from Barney’s point of view and initially I thought I was going to feel cheated; I wanted more Lacey. I have seen her described as odd, but if you know her back story it seems to me amazing that Lacey’s as sane as she is. I like her and am comfortable in her company. However, one of Bolton’s great skills is to involve the reader with her characters and it wasn’t long before I forgot my early concern and walked/cycled/skated the streets of London with Barney as he tried to reassure himself that the killer was not someone he knew only too well.
Ah yes, the killer. I promise you that you will not pin the killer until almost the very last moment, although I suspect those who read enough crime fiction will pick the red herrings up quickly enough. But, and this is not a criticism, it is praise because it shows that Bolton has the psychology of what is happening here spot on, I wasn’t surprised by ‘whodunit’ at all. I had pinned a certain character as ‘wrong’ from the beginning. I was seriously uncomfortable about their behaviour because my own life experience had taught me that it was out of kilter and something to watch. I have met a less extreme version of the killer who also finished up breaking the law, although not in quite the way Bolton describes; I knew I had to watch them.
I’ve tried to tell you how good I think this book is without giving too much away but I hope I’ve told you enough to make you want to read it. If you haven’t encountered Bolton’s work before I would encourage you to either go back to Sacrifice or at least to the first Lacey Flint novel. I think you really do need to know her back story. And I envy you. I would love to have seven new S J Bolton works to read. I can think of very little I would enjoy more.