I am so very happy to be one of today’s stops on the blog tour for Last Breath, the new Erika Foster thriller from Robert Bryndza. I’ll be sharing my review with you in just a moment but first, here’s a little taster of what this book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.
When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.
While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.
Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?
Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.
Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Last Breath will have you on the edge of your seat, racing to the final dramatic page.
Right. So. Robert Bryndza owes me a manicure. I mean, okay, so I’ve always been a nail biter. Filthy habit I know but what can I say? I’m of a nervous disposition. Anticipation and tension doesn’t particularly help matters. But personal habits aside, I swear that I have chewed my poor nails back past a line even I wouldn’t normally cross. And why? This flipping book. That’s why?
You know when you pick up a book and you become immediately absorbed by it? When the writing is so good, the characters so engaging and the mystery just begging to be solved, so much so that you don’t want to turn away? When it ticks all of the boxes of the very things you look for in your favourite reads. You know the things I mean… Fast action page turner – check. Edge of the seat tension – check. More chemistry between Erika and Peterson than in a GlaxoSmithKline laboratory – check. From the very first page this book has it all.
This is a book with rather dark overtones – a young girl tortured and murdered and then her body dumped as though she was simply another piece of trash. The killer appears merciless and yet very meticulous in the execution of their plans, leaving no clues for the police. And to make matters worse, when a second body is found, there don’t appear to be any links between the victims other than the cruelty they have been subjected to and a murderer who knows all of the tricks required to stay hidden.
Now as the avid reader will know from Dark Water, Erika no longer works for the Murder Investigation Team, taking the case right outside of her jurisdiction. She has to fight to get the powers that be to allow her onto the team, which means swallowing her pride and apologising to the very man who caused her to transfer out to begin with – Superintendent Sparks. But when a strange turn of fate hands her the opportunity to lead the investigation, she jumps at it and thus she comes full circle to find herself working back with Peterson and Moss in the heart of the city. And this, ladies and gents is where the magic happens.
This trio, foursome if you count John McGorry who Erika brings with her from Bromley, are the perfect investigative team. Very in tune with each other and with a brilliant blend of humour, determination and charisma which means that you can’t help but like them. I love the dynamic that Robert Bryndza has created between them, and even the minor tension and electricity which exists within the team due to the budding romance between Erika and Peterson adds something special to the story. You can feel how torn Erika is between her professional persona, her feelings for Peterson and her need to keep a certain distance from her emotions following what happened to her husband. Their relationship is all brought to a head by the end of the book, but to find out how and why you’re going to have to read for yourself. But I will say that it’s one of those nail biting moments I was on about and part of the very reason I need a manicure.
Now the killer in Last Breath is merciless and I suppose somewhat of a true psychopath – maybe even sociopath as they appear to have no morals or redeeming qualities at all. Much like in The Night Stalker the reader is aware of who the killer is from very early on; we are treated to, or rather subjected to, their thoughts and feelings as the action moves from the team to their point of view quite regularly. Unlike the perpetrator in The Night Stalker, there appears to be no real justification as to why they are the way they are. They stalk young women on line, tapping into their likes and wants and feeding back to them what they want to hear to gain their trust. They expose everything that is wrong about the way people live their lives on social media. I can understand how external pressures may have contributed to their psyche in a way, but at the end of the day, their actions are brutal and there is no way to forgive. Yes there is a trauma that happens in their childhood, but even that doesn’t quite seem enough to explain the choices they make. To me, they are just plain evil.
The pacing of the book is perfect and I quickly found myself flying through the chapters, fully immersed in the story and thankful to be back amongst such familiar characters. In spite of the emotional journey Erika goes on in this book, she is still spiky, determined and willing to do whatever it takes to catch her man. We are treated to her softer side too, and it is very welcome indeed. It makes you like and respect her even more if that is even possible. And the way the book ends makes me wonder what next for Erika and the team as she is gifted the opportunity she has been working toward since the very start… The ramifications of that could be huge so I’m keen to see which path Mr Bryndza chooses to take.
For me I think this is probably my favourite of the books to date. While they have all been brilliant, there was just something about this one – I can’t quite articulate what – but something which really appealed to me. It is quite dark at times; the killer’s compulsion and lack of empathy for their victims makes for a skin crawling read. And as for the ending, as the final chapters unfurled, the fate of the final victim resting upon Erika and the team’s ability to make sense of the few scraps of clues they have been left, well it really got the adrenaline pumping and yes – this is where the nails got a particularly heavy going over. It was a ‘can’t take my eyes off the page’ kind of moment. You know the ones? Where you feel yourself balancing on the edge of the chair and leaning into the book so much so that you almost fall over. Where you are willing the heroes to find their target and holding your breath as they enter the lions den for that final, potentially deadly dalliance with the killer… That kind of an ending.
Robert Bryndza has done a fantastic job, writing a truly compelling and tension filled story which also manages to highlight the perils of social media. It is not intended to scare or drive people away from their apps, or to stop people from engaging with others online, but it may make you think twice before you accept that friend request from someone you don’t actually know. Because that’s the thing about the internet and those on line profiles so easily created. At the end of the day, it’s all just window dressing – and you may not really know what, or who, is hiding behind it.
An absolutely brilliant, be careful who you befriend now, 5 stars.
My thanks to publishers Bookouture for the advance copy of Last Breath for review and to Kim Nash for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. The book is available to purchase now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Robert Bryndza grew up on the east coast of England, but now lives in Slovakia with his Slovak husband. His debut romantic comedy The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard became an Amazon bestseller. He’s published further Coco Pinchard adventures and two more best selling stand-alone romantic comedies, but has always harboured a desire to write crime, and was a finalist in the BBC Writersroom Drama Academy.
Bookouture publish Robert’s crime fiction series featuring Detective Erika Foster and the first book in the series The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1 million copies.
The other books in the Erika Foster series are: The Girl in The Ice; Night Stalker and Dark Water. They can all be found on Robert Bryndza’s Amazon page here.
Make sure to check out the other blog tours taking part in the tour: