Review: A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood (@MichaelHWood; @KillerReads; @HarperCollins) #144Books #SouthYorkshire

arfokThe Official Book Blurb

Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

Ok. First things first. This is the third full length book in the Mathilda Darke series by Michael Wood but the first one I have read. I am a complete plank. Not because I read book three first, it is easily strong enough to be read as a standalone and I felt I knew enough about the characters to carry me through the story. No. I am a complete plank because I have allowed this series to pass me by, a mistake I hope to remedy soon as I’ve already purchased the first two books and the novella which was released at Christmas. If you have any sense, and you aren’t already wise to how great these books are, then you will do the same. Right. With that bit out of the way, what about this book?

Well. As you can probably guess, I kind of really enjoyed this book. I came to it having seen a whole host of great reviews from other bloggers, people whose opinions I trust implicitly. I wasn’t disappointed. From the very opening chapter I knew this was a book which deserved my full attention and boy did it get it. It was not even so much of what you could see, what the author described, as the simple act of what was implied. It left me wanting more; feeling desperate to know whose eyes we were seeing the action through and what was the atrocity which had clearly taken place.

Cut from the prologue to a scene of a young boy being taken to a youth offenders facility in Sheffield. Was this our mystery voyeur? Was he the person who has seen, or perhaps even committed this as yet undisclosed crime? The mystery went on and on, drawing me in, keeping me gripped until I could find out the truth. It was pitched perfectly, keeping me invested in both the story and the characters, even though these are people who have fallen foul of the law.

And yet… the beauty of this whole opening was that this wasn’t even the central premise of the book. The real story surrounded this young man, a boy whose crimes we don’t yet understand, who within a day of having been moved to Starling House has been murdered. Released from a room in lock down, one that could only be opened from the outside, and found in another room which was also locked. The staff are all accounted for and the offenders are all locked away. A sort of perfectly imperfect, unlocked-locked room mystery. So who is responsible? The staff of this institution – some of questionable character and dubious levels of security screening – or the inmates – a group of high profile teenage murderers? Seven young men with completely the right character to commit a crime, but no clear motive and no access. Such a quandary and absolutely beautiful to read.

The pacing in this book is brilliant and the setting just perfect. The house itself is imposing; grandiose and cold, beset with issues and subject to such animosity from local residents that they simply cannot employ or retain staff. Add to that the incessant rain which is plaguing the region, isolating the house from the rest of the world and making it so much harder for the police to conduct an already impossible investigation. And the characters are so wonderfully shady and untrustworthy. Clearly it would be hard for anyone to trust a convicted killer, but even the staff are aloof, especially the warden, Kate Moloney, who seems not to want to allow the truth to come out and is as obstructive to the investigation she can be while not wholly stopping Mathilda and her team from doing what they need to do.

This is a superb crime novel. The feeling of authenticity really comes across in the characterisation, from the descriptions of the convicted killers – the chapters written in their own voices as they talk through their crimes are particularly chilling – through to the team investigating the crime. As characters go, I really took to them all, especially Mathilda, a woman who is struggling with her personal demons, ones which are affecting her ability to do her job properly and potentially putting her and her team at risk due to her distraction. I loved to see the way in which Wood portrayed her; her private battle with grief, the panic attacks she struggles to keep hidden from her team, her loneliness and the simple and yet caring relationship with her father and friends. She is a character I have formed an instant ‘fictional’ bond with, hence my need to go back and read the first books. I want to know more. I want to go back and go on the journey with her.

If you are a fan of a good police procedural with a strong yet crumbling central protagonist, menacing suspects and more than a hint of mystery, then I absolutely recommend reading this book. I read a lot of thrillers and this is totally up there with the best of them, the killer and motive so well hidden for so long that I seriously didn’t see it coming. Brilliant.

A twisted and chilling 5 stars.


My thanks to NetGalley and publishers Harper Collins for the ARC of A Room Full of Killers. It was released on 17th February and is available to purchase at the following links:

Amazon UK


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