Today, as part of the #festivereads feature I have a review of Alastair Gunn’s second Christmas based book, the fourth and latest in his DCI Antonia Hawkins series. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book in a short while, as soon as we’ve takne a look at what it’s all about.
The Official Book Blurb
In the small village of Cold Christmas there’s a church that faces the wrong way . . . What has it to do with the three dead men found in a London flat?
DCI Antonia Hawkins has a killer to catch. Only she can’t predict what is waiting for her at the end of the chase.
Nobody remembers the young men entering the abandoned London flat a few weeks ago. Nobody cares if they left.
Until the unbearable smell of decay.
DCI Antonia Hawkins is called in to view the dead men; three, lying neat in a row. There’s no damage to the bodies, no obvious cause of death. Is this a suicide pact? Or is that just how it’s meant to look?
If there is a link between the three very different men then Hawkins needs to find it, and fast. Because unless she does, more are going to die. And they might not all be strangers.
Oh. Oh, oh, oh. I’m not sure I liked the ending of this book. Not at all … But that’s the ending. You want to hear about the beginning first.
Faced with unexplained deaths of three young men, cause of death isn’t the only thing which initially evades Hawkins and her team. Aside from how and where they are found there is no clear link between them or reason as to why they would have been in the abandoned apartment in which their bodies have been found. Chasing down that link puts Hawkins in direct conflict with her lover and former DI, Mike Maguire, as their two cases clash. But this is the least of her worries, at least as far as their relationship is concerned. Her focus is squarely on the case and a foe who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, leaving Hawkins facing yet another bleak Christmas.
This book grabs you from the start. Focused on one of the first victims you realise he has got himself into something far worse than he had imagined, but his fate, and that of those with him, is currently unclear. Even by the end of that opening chapter, you are still not quite sure what has happened, and it will take nearly all of the book to uncover the true reason why. With possible connections to the drug world and organised crime, could one of the victims hold the clue to the murders, assuming they are murders, or is it a complete red herring? Certainly with no clear mode of death it’s hard to know if there really is something untoward happening or of it has all been an unfortunate accident …
But that wouldn’t be any fun now would it? There are so many diversions in this investigation, so many distractions which put Hawkins and the team off their stride, that it was hard to see where the whole story was going. Until they uncover a vital clue. This is one twisted killer, their methods surprisingly and alarmingly simple. Completely and devastatingly effective but totally nuts. And there are so elements of tension in this book, so many moments which will have you holding your breath, and yet so very few clues as to who the perpetrator is that you will be guessing at their identity right up until the end.
Now this is only the second book I have read in the series. There are two others which fill in the twelve months that have passed since Hawkins first story, The Advent Killer. If I was her, I’d give up on Christmas completely as it has been nothing but a nightmare for her, and this one is certainly no exception. She is a damaged person, with clear trust issues and this spells trouble for her and Mike, a man who just wants her to commit. There is no doubting her love for him and she is frustrating in her reticence to tell him how much. So many times you just want to slap her. Mike is a solid guy, but only willing to bend so far and she is a woman with very little give. A perfect match but also a volatile one.
But oh … that ending. What this means for Hawkins and co now I do not know. As I said before, despite this only being my second book, I’m not sure it’s the ending I wanted to read. It will certainly shake things up, and there is something to be said in not allowing a crime series or couple to become too comfortable. But that? Really? Mr Gunn. What have you done? I’ve only read a few books which have made me go nooooooooo in quite the way this one did. A great sign and yay for the fact that I’m completely invested in the characters, but boo hiss in terms of what has happened. I still can’t quite believe it. Cruel. Just cruel.
For a completely unfestive read with none of the joys of the season, but a compelling story which will have you on the edge of your seat, you should probably take a look at this one. However, read the other books first, at least the first one. It will make a lot more sense and the impact of that ending will be far greater too. Gah! Still angry.
My thanks to publisher Michael Joseph for providing an advance copy of Cold Christmas for review via Netgalley. It is available now from the following retailers: