Today I continue my countdown to the release of Angela Marsons’ Dead Souls with a look back to book 2 in the Kim Stone series. In February I had the absolute pleasure of being part of the blog tour for the paperback release of Evil Games. It was the premiere of a revamped and extended review and I think I may have been a bit gushing with the #BookLove. But you know what? I stand by my gushiness as I absolutely loved this book.
The Official Book Blurb
The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…
When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.
With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.
Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.
If by some chance you missed the review the first time around, it can be found in full below. However if you want the abridged version here you go:
I THIS BOOK
Short and sweet no? The slightly less short version is here:
I THIS BOOK
There. Now that is out of the way, you will be pretty clear about what is to come in this review.
From the minute I started reading Silent Scream, I knew that I had found an author here who had captured my imagination. I won’t lie. I was first drawn to the series because Angela Marsons was a local author and the books were set in the town I went to Uni, so I knew it pretty well. I am so very glad I found the series because since book one I have never looked back.
For me Evil Games, the second outing for Kim Stone and her team, is one of the best books in an absolutely stonking series. I love the development of Kim’s character throughout. She is definitely a person who had ticked every box in my top bod (or Plod) checklist and the more I read, the more I love her. While she may appear prickly and perhaps a little clinical at times, she has untold amounts of empathy for victims of crime, especially those who society systematically overlooks, and those to whom fate has dealt a poor hand. She has a wonderfully gentle way with them, an ability to elicit trust and to communicate with them in a way that others can’t. It is so at odds with the manner in which she treats colleagues and other witnesses or suspects, but it is in this book that we perhaps come to understand a little more of the reason why.
Her history, a dark and traumatic past, becomes clearer the more you read and it explains a lot about why Kim remains emotionally cut off from others. Why she lacks trust and is somewhat socially inept, staying distant from everyone other than Bryant. And yet while you may feel a little sympathy for her past, Angela Marsons has created a perfect balance in that the story, and indeed Kim, will not allow you to feel pity for her in any way. She is more than her past and she is stronger, but by heck is she pushed to the limits during this investigation.
This is a departure from the first story, in that during Silent Scream you were kept guessing until the end just who it was that was committing the murders. In Evil Games, much akin to a good episode of Columbo, you know from the outset who dunnit and why. There are difficult themes touched upon, such as the ongoing story of child abuse which runs alongside the main murder investigation, and a serious sexual assault, neither of which are dealt with in too graphic detail but are well written and give the reader just enough. As a reader you are present at every crime, sat in the mind of the aggressor. There is no ambiguity over the link between victim and perpetrator and this adds such a wonderful dimension to the novel, creating a massive conflict for Kim who cannot accept the simplicity of the solutions presented to her. Her instincts are spot on.
In Evil Games, Kim is pitted against the person who may well be her greatest ever adversary, the sociopathic Dr Alex Thorne. She is a deliciously conscience free character, someone who believes she has found in Kim the perfect toy for her mind games. Alex is manipulative and cunning – a devil in killer heels and a sharp suit. She is able to worm her way into a person’s psyche, using her training and her instincts, her ability to mimic others, to gain trust. To seduce them. She is culpable for great atrocities and yet no blood is spilt by her hand. If Kim is cold and aloof, superficially, to the watching world, Alex is the polar opposite. She is superb.
I love the way Angela Marsons develops character, the brilliantly accurate depiction of setting and back story, and how skillfully she uses it all to manipulate the readers emotions. You are drawn in, poised on the edge of your seat as the lines which separate aggressor and victim become more and more blurred. It is hard to know who to feel sorry for as the story draws out conflicting emotions in you as a reader. Is what we are seeing deftly meted justice or cruel and unforgiving injustice carried out by a broken mind? It makes you question the capacity of a weaker individual to capitulate to someone in a position of power and trust and to turn against their base instincts. And it’s a fascinating topic to consider, one which will leave you wondering what if long after you have turned the last page.
If you love Kim’s team then you won’t be disappointed. True they feature less in this book than in Silent Scream – the story is largely a mental tango between Kim and Alex, Kim being the only one to be able to see beneath Alex’s carefully crafted veneer to the evil and empty soul which hides beneath – but even in their limited presence, the team are all still a delight. Stacey, with her broad Black Country accent and isms makes me chuckle every time. Kev, back to his normal man-whoring ways, is a character you just can’t be sure about. Competent or just plain cocky? And Bryant? Well he’s still trying in vain to counter Kim’s more aggressive tendencies. Her own personal Jiminy Cricket as it were. There are a few moments of tenderness when Kim opens up to Bryant which are beautiful, but they are still restrained. Still on Kim’s terms.
The pacing is pitch perfect, the conflict and tension ever present. Even in the quieter moments of the novel you can feel a sense of threat lurking in the shadows. The prose is as skilfully and beautifully crafted as ever as Marsons takes you into the minds of the novel’s two key characters. The plot keeps twisting and turning and Marsons manages to pitch some perfect curve balls, springing surprises as we discover more disturbing truths about Alex and Kim’s respective pasts. But it really is the dangerous relationship, the kind of antipathetic symbiosis which occurs between Kim and Alex, which is the true beauty of this novel. Alex is the Moriarty to Kim’s Holmes – her perfect adversary and foil. Alex believes Kim is just like her, and yet, rather than a simple difference in conscience, the unexpected addition to Kim’s family shows us all just how different the two women truly are.
I suppose my only concern about the book is something truly personal. I can find myself, on some level, identifying with both Kim and Alex, and I’m really not sure what that says about me…
An stunning, twisted and deliciously sociopathic 5 stars from me.
Evil Games is available to purchase now from the following links.
About the Author
Angela lives in the heart of the Black Country with her partner, bouncy Labrador and potty mouthed parrot.
It has taken many novels to find that one character who just refused to go away. And so D.I. Kim Stone was born.
You can find details of all of Angela Marsons’ books at her Amazon author page here. The other books in the Kim Stone series are Silent Scream, Lost Girls, Play Dead and Bloodlines.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the Dead Souls blog tour at the end of the month. There is a small chance that I may be a bit excited (I think I’m hiding it well, don’t you?)