Today it’s my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Dead Lands the debut thriller from Lloyd Otis and Urbane. My thanks to the author and to Abby Slater-Fairbrother for inviting me to be a part of the tour. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book in just a moment, but first up, here is what it’s all about.
The Official Book Blurb
The stunning debut from thriller writer Lloyd Otis.
When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alex Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen.
When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge – and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy.
Lloyd Otis brings a startling account of the past back to life over a burgeoning ’70s landscape, and delivers a thrilling piece of crime fiction that will excite any fan of the genre.
I first heard about this book when talking to the author, Lloyd Otis, at Crimefest in Bristol. The premise sounded really interesting and so when he asked if I’d be interested in reviewing for the blog tour, I was more than happy to say yes. So did the book live up to expectations?
It absolutely did, yes. What a stunning debut. Set in 1970’s London against a back drop of racial tension and unrest (and that is putting it mildly), Detectives Beck and Kearns are called to the scene of a rather brutal murder. The victim – a very influential businesswoman; the suspect – a man who she was about to call out for shady deals and trading. Working for the Sensitive Crimes Unit, Breck and Kearns are used to dealing with the elite, the unit set up to not only to investigate crime but to meet the demands of the more influential members of British society, those for whom making the headlines is less than desirable. Their task is to capture and convict their main suspect, Alex Troy, and to make the case go away. But there is a problem as they are faced with a potential case of identity theft and cannot agree on who the real Alex Troy actually is. What follows is a sometimes brutal, but always honest and authentic feeling investigation where the private lives of the Detectives involved come to inform the case in unexpected ways.
What I really loved about this book was the gritty and yet matter of fact tone in which it was written. There is no glamourising the deaths and yet they are brutally authentic in portrayal. There is a merciless killer on the prowl and although from the very opening chapter we have a kind of understanding as to how they came to be the person they are today, there is no denying the sinister and chillingly clinical way in which they approach their task. There is an element of delight for them in what they do, but there is also the sense that this is just part of a plan – nothing more, nothing less. They have a task to complete and that will be done. It’s quite unsettling but sets the tone for the rest of the book as there is always an undercurrent of something unexplained lurking just beneath the surface.
What else is evident is that one of the Detectives is keeping secrets, ones which can affect the course of the investigation and perhaps the safety of potential future victims. You don’t know quite why or what the motivations may be. You don’t initially even know for sure whether they are deliberately trying to derail the investigation or whether it is simple ineptitude. What is certain is that neither Detective is being entirely honest with the other and the element of mistrust between them adds a layer of conflict to an already tense plot.
Speaking of the Detectives, it is a very strange dynamic in play here. In some ways I found myself drawn to them both, intrigued by their back story and invested in them as characters. But then I also didn’t quite trust them, perhaps one more than the other which will become clearer in reading the book. Both have traumatic back stories, if not themselves as victims per se, then something which has happened which has changed the course of their lives and, in some ways, the course of this particular investigation.
Certainly the way in which the conflict has been developed, not over played, just bubbling away beneath the surface, plays perfectly with the feeling of unrest in the wider world. Set in a time where the race riots are rife and a forthcoming far-right march is planned and occupying the minds of the upper echelons of the Police, this is a really interesting time to have set the novel. It makes the investigation that little more difficult as forensic science was not prevalent back then, and I had to keep reminding myself that there were no mobile phones to quickly call for help. It was all radios and public phone boxes. But Lloyd Otis has clearly researched the period well and captured the essence of this time perfectly, in my head at least (I’m not quite old enough to remember for sure…). It meant the Detectives had to rely upon good old-fashioned police work and intuition, not easy when one is deliberately steering the other in the wrong direction.
I found the pacing of the book variable, but this suited the story really well. From high tension moments when you have your heart in your throat, to slower, more sentimental, almost touching moments, notably when Breck spends time with his girlfriend away from the investigation, there is a perfect balance created between the two. They compliment each other, humanizing the characters, and bring us closer to them but while also grabbing the reader’s attention and pulling them full throttle towards an almost startling conclusion.
I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see more from Lloyd Otis. Whether or not it will be more from the team of Breck and Kearns I don’t know, but I think I’d like to hear from them again sometime. They made a great team even if trust was occasionally an issue. When you hear why … well, you’ll understand.
A brilliant, high action and tense debut full of secrets and misdirection. Well done Mr Otis. Highly recommended.
Dead Lands is available now from the following retailers (currently at the bargain price of 99p on Kindle):
About the Author
Lloyd was born in London and attained a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication. After gaining several years of valuable experience within the finance and digital sectors, he completed a course in journalism. Lloyd has interviewed a host of bestselling authors, such as Mark Billingham, Hugh Howey, Kerry Hudson, and Lawrence Block. Two of his short stories were selected for publication in the ‘Out of My Window’ anthology, and he currently works as an Editor.
Make sure to check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour: