I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for The Last Cut by Danielle Ramsay, a new crime series featuring DS Harri Jacobs which is released today. Happy publication day to you and I hope you have a brilliant day of celebration.
I’ll be sharing my review with you in a moment but before I do, here is what this book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
Obsessions can kill.
First, he selects them. Strips them of their identity.
Then he kills them. All for her…
DS Harri Jacobs transferred to Newcastle from the Met in the hope of leaving her past behind: the moment where her stalker turned violent. He left her alive, saying that one day he would be back. And she ran.
But a year later, she realises he has followed her from home. He’ll prove his devotion. With blood…
Wowsers. What a gritty book. As an early warning for readers of a gentle disposition, there are incidents in the book such as rape and suspected suicide that could act as a trigger. That said, neither are portrayed in an overtly graphic manner, but it is clear what has happened and in part it is the aftermath of both, and the reasons behind them, which this novel explores. Now with the housekeeping out of the way, what did I think of the book?
From the very opening chapter this is a book which demands the reader’s attention. There is a darkness in the tone which sets the scene straight away. A sense of foreboding and menace and a clear understanding that this is not going to be a cozy crime caper. There is a clinical precision about the opening scene, one which is echoed in the actions of the book’s central antagonist and although you will not find out until much later in the book how twisted this individual is, you will most definitely know in which direction they are headed. It is claustrophobic, suffocating, dark even. In essence, all the things I love about a gritty serial killer story which this book most definitely is.
Harri Jacobs is a no-nonsense kind of Detective. Like all good fictional detectives she carries a lot of baggage, but unlike most, hers is the kind of baggage that could have destroyed a weaker person. I won’t go into any more detail than that, her past is spelled out clearly in the book itself and an element of it hinted at in the blurb, but suffice to say that her past, the reason she left London and returned to her childhood home of Newcastle, is inextricably linked to a new case which is about to be handed to her team. A vicious killer who has hideously disfigured a young woman and left her mutilated body in a place which Harri knows well. And when the killer starts to make contact with Harri personally, she has is forced to make decisions against her conscience in order to try and stay on the case.
Harri is a tough character. She struggles settling into the new team, not finding it easy to trust or to forge new relationships after her ordeal ,and having been felt betrayed and let down by people from her past that she used to consider as friends. She struggles to accept people’s motivations as anything other than suspicious and this distance she creates around herself puts her in a very vulnerable position. But she is no longer the victim that her attacker sought to make her. She is stronger and she is determined. I will be honest and say that at times I struggled with the way in which Harri was portrayed, if only because she was too isolated, too determined to go it alone. There were a lot of passages which seemed to repeat, where she seconded guessed what was happening around her, especially her suspicions of a former colleague. But the more I thought about it, the more real this seemed, this paranoia and secrecy. These are the actions of someone who has been through a great trauma and escaped, albeit not completely unscathed. She hides her insecurities behind a steely persona at work but at home her fears and memories dominate. This element of the character humanises her. I wouldn’t call her a sympathetic character, I think if she were real she’d kick my arse for that, but she is certainly someone you can get behind.
Although a lot of the action centered around Harri, the secondary characters were well fleshed out, with her boss Douglas and Crime Scene Manager Munroe both likeable and supportive characters. Although Harri has an initial hate-hate relationship with one of her DC’s, Robertson, a quiet appreciation and understanding develops between the two of them throughout the novel and I can see this as a partnership that could develop into something really special. But it is the development of the voices of the killer’s victims, a young unidentified woman who watches him set to work on his other ‘subjects’, and his wife who suffers unimaginable violence at his hand, where we start to learn more about the killer himself. We hear from him only in glimpses but by his actions and how he treats these women we learn more about his character than any investigation could provide. He is sadistic and twisted but he is also hell bent on revenge. As to why he has singled out Harri, you will need to read to find out, but it may not be what you first imagine. There is a certain something which occurs later on in the book that certainly took me by surprise.
The pacing in this book varies, but I wouldn’t describe any of it as fast paced exactly. It definitely draws you in and pulls you along with the narrative and there are some real edge of the seat moments when you can feel the tension rising and know that the threat levels against Harri are quite high. But there are also moments of great introspection, where Harri retreats into her own mind, trying to make sense of the violence, both against her and against the young victims. These slow the narrative but still draw the reader in. If I had one criticism of the book it would be that after a world of build up, it almost seemed that Harri found her man too soon, too quickly. I expected more of a cat and mouse chase, more of an intense build to what was, in the end, a rather brief finale.
But then I say finale… It is very clear that the story still isn’t over for Harri. She may have caught her man, may have stopped the violence for now, but by the end of the book, the scene has been well and truly set for another thrilling clash. I for one am looking forward to seeing what fresh hell Ms Ramsay unleashes on our poor Detective Sergeant next. Overall a great start to the series.
My thanks to the author and to Publishers Hodder & Stoughton for the advance copy of The Last Cut for review. It is published today and is available to purchase from the following retailers.
About the Author
Danielle Ramsay is a proud Scot living in a small seaside town in the North-East of England. Always a storyteller, it was only after initially following an academic career lecturing in literature that she found her place in life and began to write creatively full-time. After much hard graft her work was short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger in 2009. Always on the go, always passionate in what she is doing, Danielle fills her days with horse-riding, running and murder by proxy.
Why not check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour.