Like This, For Ever ~ S J Bolton

n414185I 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.

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11 thoughts on “Like This, For Ever ~ S J Bolton

  1. Oooh, I hadn’t realized there was a new one out (and, note, this is called Lost in the States for some reason). Thanks for the heads up; I loved the first two!

    1. Glad to have brightened your day. I have been nagging the librarian to get me a copy for weeks. The only problem is I’m now going to have to wait for at least a year for the next one.

  2. One of my favourite series too, and I thought this one was great. I feel that Lacey has actually become more ‘normal’ as the series has progressed. I first came in contact with her in Now You See Me and, though I enjoyed it, found her not particularly likeable. Dead Scared, however, changed my view of her and of the series – I thought that was the scariest book of last year, wonderfully well written! And in this one, I felt that Bolton did the teenagers brilliantly – so often young characters don’t ring true, but these ones did completely.

    1. I so agree about ‘Dead Scared’. In fact I haven’t yet been able to go back and re-read because I found it so disturbing. The only other novel that’s done that to me recently was Louise Penny’s ‘Bury Your Dead’, which was brilliant but so painful I have never been able to return to it.

      1. Oh, I must look out for that one – I haven’t come across Louise Penny.

        Since we both like Bolton and Casey, have you read the third of my favourite current Queens of Crime – Belinda Bauer? Her Rubbernecker is right up there with Bolton in my opinion – a real step up from her previous books. Gloriously gruesome and with some great black humour.

        1. Penny’s early works are almost ‘cozys’ but I still love them for their location and characters but with number five (which you definitely need to read to understand number six) she turned a real corner. ‘Bury Your Dead’ won practically every prize going.

          I’ve tried Bauer but had no success with her. Can I read her latest as a stand alone?

  3. Yes, It’s a standalone. I though her earlier stuff was somewhere between OK and good, but I felt she made the basic mistake of setting her series in a place that was too small. It became ridiculous that the same characters kept getting involved with manic murderers in a tiny little place, which made the plots seem pretty contrived. But this one is quite different, pretty original and very funny in parts, if you don’t mind your humour pretty black…

    Since I haven’t read any Penny’s it would make sense to start with number 1 for a change, I suppose. I always like to see how both author and characters develop.

  4. I’m not going to comment on the substance of the review because I haven’t read any SJ Bolton, but I wanted to say that your crime novel review writing is fine: it’s definitely not spoiler-y, which book jacket copy often is. I’ve found that reviewing crime novels is easier than reviewing literary fiction, or, more accurately, I’m more excited by the crime novels I decide to review than by the literary fiction I’ve read in the past few years. Writing about so-so books is always a struggle.

    1. Thank you, so much. I think I need to step up to the plate more where reviewing crime fiction is concerned. It isn’t that I have a problem with genre fiction; I taught and reviewed children’s literature for many years and agree with Philip Pullman when he says that it is in genre fiction that you find the real storytellers. I should celebrate that more often than I do.

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