I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ by Mel Sherratt, the latest book in her DS Eden Berrisford Series.
The Official Book Blurb
She got into bed but sleep didn’t come easily. Every creak in the house made her alert. She was waiting for him to come and get her.
The small city of Stockleigh is in shock as three women are brutally attacked within days of each other. Are they random acts of violence or is there a link between the victims? For Detective Eden Berrisford, it’s her most chilling case yet.
The investigation leads Eden to cross paths with Carla, a woman trying to rebuild her life after her marriage to a cruel and abusive man ended in unimaginable tragedy. Her husband Ryan was imprisoned for his crimes but, now he’s out and coming for her.
As Eden starts to close in on the attacker, she also puts herself in grave danger. Can she stop him before he strikes again? And can Carla, terrified for her life, save herself – before the past wreaks a terrible revenge?
When I read the first book in this series, ‘The Girls Next Door’ there were times when I could literally feel my heart thumping in my chest. The opening was so tense, the story so twisting and yet moving that I loved it and when you enjoy a book that much you wonder if the next one can capture that same intense feeling.
The answer in this case is a resounding yes.
From the very beginning, you can sense the threat, the nervousness, that is building in the life of one of the central characters, Carla. Her full story is not clear at this stage but her sadness seeps from the page into your consciousness and after that first short prologue I was invested in her and her life. Who was she? How did she come to lose something so precious and what or who is it that she fears so much? From nothing more menacing than a hello, Mel Sherratt set the clear expectations of what was to come and by god, what a brilliant and thrilling journey she takes us on.
Now this is not an easy book to read by any stretch and it almost feels wrong to say that I loved it given the subject matter, but I absolutely did. Although the book features a theme of serious sexual and physical assault, and of domestic abuse, there was never a sense of any of the violence being gratuitous or of a scene being thrown together for the shock factor. Yes, there was violence and rage. It’s hard to depict a seriously abusive relationship where the aggressor administers a minor slap after all. But there wasn’t a blow by blow account of the violence and the story was driven more by the thought of what was about to occur and the aftermath for the victims rather than being present during the attacks. This makes the subject much easier to read. As it was, the victims are random, the violence escalating with each attack and the sense of jeopardy slowly builds with each missed opportunity to recover vital evidence.
I really like the character of Eden. She is not overly complicated, more down to earth and authentic if anything, even though she has an incredibly complicated personal life which is set to become even more so throughout this book and beyond. She is scared to commit romantically following the betrayal by her husband, something which puts a strain on her current relationship. She loves her daughter and she loves the community she lives and works in. She is dogged and determined and completely dedicated to her job. And this is where her greatest conflict lies. I said in my last review that it felt as though the ghost of her relationship with her husband Danny was going to haunt her over time and I wasn’t wrong. It only just rears its head in this book but you know that this is one problem which isn’t going to go away in a hurry. Danny, (what a berk by the way and this is the PG rated version of what I really think), has messed up his own life and through his actions has jeopardised Eden’s as well, and yet she clearly still has conflicted feelings for him. How his revelation impacts upon her longer term remains to be seen. Personally, I can’t wait to find out.
The supporting characters in this book are brilliantly developed too. While we don’t spend a great deal of time with Eden’s direct team this time around, I still love the banter and good humour between them and you get a good sense of their strength as a team. We do however spend a bit of time with Phil, an old-timer just back off sick leave who is assigned to the team as part of his phased return to work. He is the exact opposite of the rest of them and ultimately resentful of his placement in the ‘sticking plaster team’. He makes some serious errors of judgement which could have dire consequences, but is he completely beyond redemption? Well, you’ll have to read and find out.
As for the women at The Willows, particularly Tanya and Carla, they all hide their own layers of complexity and back story which is essential to the plot. Tanya and Carla are two very different women who should be able to bond after suffering a similar experience, but Tanya is oblivious to Carla’s story and unlike Carla, she isn’t truly willing to walk away from her husband, no matter what he does to her. Both women are written very sympathetically but their characters are very reflective of the differing kinds of women you would find in this awful position. Neither are weak and yet, no matter how far they run, how well they hide, they are ultimately still victims. They haven’t simply overcome their past, walked away to a future of sunshine and roses, and this gives the book a real sense of honesty.
The structure works brilliantly, flowing back and forth between the attacks and the points of view of Eden, Carla and Tanya. The pacing is measured and yet pitched perfectly to the action. There are heart-stopping moments when we follow the women who you know will be the next potential victims of Stockleigh’s vicious predator, the times when you want to shout at your book, to tell the women they are crazy to think it’s safe to walk home alone. There are the more evenly paced family moments between Eden, her daughter and her partner, even to some extent, her tense meeting with Danny, where you get a look at a woman who is much more than just her job. The part of the story which humanises Eden. Then we have the carefully orchestrated plan of revenge exercised against Carla, so simple in structure and yet so brutal in execution that it has you on the edge of your seat. Carla’s harrowing story is drip fed to the reader through a series of flashbacks going back to the moment she met Ryan, taking us from a fairy tale beginning to the reality of a marriage based on fear, violence and control. The story flows naturally, pulling you unsuspectingly onward towards a tense, nail-biting, high-stakes conclusion where no-one is guaranteed to walk away.
And speaking of the conclusion. Wow. As the police close in on the suspected rapist you can really feel your senses move to high alert. And over on the other side of town, Carla faces her own battle when her husband returns for what could well be a final, deadly showdown. There is a perhaps less surprising revelation which precedes it, something which is clearly hinted at throughout, but then big reveals are not what this book is about. You always know who the bad guys are in this sordid tale of cowardice and abuse. And yet the ending still comes as a surprise, still manages to turn things on its head, leaving an ultimate sense of satisfaction for me as the reader.
And oh. Poor Eden. The troubles she has a brewing now…
As I said before, a difficult subject but so skilfully written. I loved it.
A tense and nail-biting 5 stars from me.
I received an ARC of ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ from NetGalley and publishers Bookouture. It is available to order now from the following sites:
About the Author
Mel Sherratt writes gritty crime dramas, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as she calls it. Shortlisted for the CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in the Library Award 2014, she finds inspiration from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all nine of her crime novels have been bestsellers. Four of her books are published by Amazon Publishing’s crime and thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer and she has a new series out with Bookouture.
Mel lives in Stoke-on-Trent, with her husband and terrier, Dexter, named after the TV serial killer, and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books.
You can follow Mel on twitter: @writermels
This book is brilliant but you don’t have to just take my word for it. Why not stop by one of the other fab blogs on the tour?