‘Dark Houses’ by Helen H. Durrant. A vicious murderer makes the case personal for Oldston’s Police.

The body of a young girl is found in an empty house, horrifically disfigured, raped and murdered before being left suspended from the ceiling. When DI Stephen Greco and his team are assigned the case, they find there are no clear motives for why anyone would want to hurt her. When a second body is found just one day later, and a series of taunting tweets start to appear on line, they have to face the fact that this is just the start. With no suspects, no trace evidence and a killer who seems to be laying a false trail around them, there doesn’t seem to be any way in which to track their killer.

A clearly disturbed man walks into the police station and confesses to the murders, but Greco is distracted by affairs of the heart, and when someone close to one of the team goes missing, it becomes a race against time and a battle of wits in the need to prevent further tragedy.

‘Dark Houses’ by Helen Durrant was a quick and easy read. It was fairly fast paced and the writing very accessible. The central character of Di Greco is a very troubled individual, suffering OCD which affects his working and personal life and struggling with reconciling with his ex-wife while trying to balance this with his job. His characters is believable but a little hard to warm to as certainly, through this book, he is very distracted and perhaps not as engaging as he should be. Not that the character is meant to be a people person, remaining distant from nearly all of his team.

I did enjoy this story and liked the style of writing. It did feel a little too convenient though, the way in which the killer’s identity was discovered and the reason for their actions perhaps not fully believable. The story also went from a steady and gripping build up to an almost rushed conclusion. I also worked out very early on who the mastermind of the crimes was. It was perhaps a little too obvious with the attention being drawn to the character for no apparent reason. It may have been better and more believable if they had been more anonymous, even if the intent was to play on the ‘I’m cleverer than you’ angle with the police. It didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the book but the pacing did feel a little off in the second half of the novel.

Although the second in the series, this would work as a standalone as you get enough of an insight into the characters to understand who they all are. Maybe I’d feel more empathy for Greco if I had read book one, but he just didn’t come across as the most enigmatic of people and yet his team seem to really like him. I can kind of relate to that. I would likely read the next book in the series, if only because the premise of a dedicated major crimes team sounds interesting and I’d be intrigued to see how Durrant builds this.

Thanks to Net Galley and Publishers Joffe Books for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

3.5 stars