Today it is my great pleasure to be sharing my thoughts on Perfect Death, the latest Luc Callanach novel by Helen Fields. Thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour. I’ve really enjoyed reading (or listening) to the first two books in the series, so I couldn’t wait to read this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Before we get to that, here’s what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
There’s no easy way to die…
Unknown to DI Luc Callanach and the newly promoted DCI Ava Turner, a serial killer has Edinburgh firmly in his grip. The killer is taking his victims in the coldest, most calculating way possible – engineering slow and painful deaths by poison, with his victims entirely unaware of the drugs flooding their bloodstream until it’s too late.
But how do you catch a killer who hides in the shadows? A killer whose pleasure comes from watching pain from afar? Faced with their most difficult case yet, Callanach and Turner soon realise they face a seemingly impossible task…
‘A very sinister premise and an intriguing killer’s voice. Highly recommended.’ James Oswald
Having only recently finished book two in the series, I was really excited to read this book and find out what the events at the end of Perfect Prey meant for Callanach and Ava. Well … when the only person you think you could possibly love suddenly becomes your boss, it’s never going to be a walk in the park now is it? As it turns out, this change in status for Ava is the last of the teams problems as they are soon to be faced with a perplexing death and also a startling revelation about one of their own, former DCI Begbie.
For Ava, Begbie’s case is personal, but her reluctance to share what is happening leads to a wider gap opening between her and Callanach. Callanach has his own concerns though, faced with the suspicious death of a young girl, found naked near to Arthur’s Seat in Hollyrood Park. In the near dead of winter her condition makes no sense and yet there are no outward signs of a struggle. Her family cannot accept the fact she may have killed herself and to Callanach it also doesn;t seem to make sense. And as he investigates further, whilst also being pulled into a case of a road traffic collision in which the potential victim has disappeared, things for the team, especially Ava and Callanach are set to get very complicated, and potentially deadly.
Now compared to the murders in the last two books, the ones you are faced with here are a lot less gory but no less distressing, especially for the ones that are left behind. Despite the outward appearance in the first case of the victims death being almost serene, the truth is far removed. But the manner of death, poisoning, makes the overall tone and pace of the book feel very different to its predecessors. Not in a bad way.
Although it felt a slower paced read, it was no less gripping, and having the two separate threads interesting at various stages kept the pages turning and the attention one-hundred percent on the action. There are still moments of great peril, where first Ava and then Callanach and DS Lively are all placed in great jeopardy and these moments will have you on the edge of your seat. But there are also many moments of seemingly calm narrative. Don’t let this fool you. Nothing in this book is innocuous. Every interaction serves a purpose.
Now much like the first book in the series, from very early on we have a good idea of who the killer may be, a certain character who keeps appearing. It is all too clear that their actions are not as altruistic as they would have people believe. The way in which Helen Fields has crafted a character who has the ability to be all things to all people, to take on a multitude of personas and thereby hide in plain sight is brilliant. And the clinical justification of what they are doing, how they pick their victims, and the joy, albeit temporary, that they get from seeing the devastation they cause is actually quite chilling.
It is a very different kind of menace that you feel in reading this book. Not an overall threat of violence, although that, at times, occurs. But knowing who the killer is, knowing that they have chosen their next victim and you are watching them as they fall prey, knowing the inevitable will happen and wanting to shout at them not to be so blind whilst secretly wondering just how they will pull it off this time. That feeling. That’s the one that will have you gripped in a different kind of way, poised and waiting to see if this is the one person who will work it out before it is all too late.
The sub plot surrounding Begbie also gives you a chill of a completely different kind. With surprising links back to a previous plot line, this case pushes Ava to her limits and really tests the strength of the bond between her and Callanach. Faced with all manner of betrayal, it is no wonder Ava is on edge and snapping at those who would help her, especially Callanach. While the chemistry is still there, they lack the same kind of casual freedom in their interactions that they had when they shared a rank. Now, with Ava’s promotion, everything seems a little off kilter and developments in Callanach’s personal life, including the reappearance of his estranged mother, add another edge to the story and their friendship. It’s clear that things, tensions, between them are definitely not resolved, but there is a definite pause on anything happening between them. For now.
I love the way in which Helen Fields has not only developed the characters in this book, making you instantly bond with them and making it harder when they become victims, but has also captured the very real feeling of loss and the different ways in which people process it. Not only for the victims of the murderer, but also for those touched by the sub plots within. The emotions are very raw and feel very real, from frustration, to anger, to outright grief, it is all perfectly captured on the page. Speaking of characters, brilliant to see Lance Proudfoot back, although he’s put through the wars once again. It seems that being friends with Luc Callanach can be a very painful experience. And even DS Lively surprised me in this one. There is more to the grumpy old Sergeant than I first thought, a perfect blend of gruffness and humour but an overwhelming urge to do the right thing, including some not so hidden fathering instincts. I do believe he is starting to grow on me.
A brilliant addition to the series and with a teaser of number four at the end of the book, I for one cannot wait to see what journey Helen Fields takes us on next.
With thanks to publishers Avon Books UK for providing an advance copy of Perfect Death. It is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Helen Fields’ first love was drama and music. From a very young age she spent all her free time acting and singing until law captured her attention as a career path. She studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London.
After completing her pupillage, she joined chambers in Middle Temple where she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. Undertaking cases that ranged from Children Act proceedings and domestic violence injunctions, to large scale drug importation and murder, Helen spent years working with the police, CPS, Social Services, expert witnesses and in Courts Martials.
After her second child was born, Helen left the Bar. Together with her husband David, she went on to run Wailing Banshee Ltd, a film production company, acting as script writer and producer.
Helen self-published two fantasy books as a way of testing herself and her writing abilities. She enjoyed the creative process so much that she began writing in a much more disciplined way, and decided to move into the traditional publishing arena through an agent.
Perfect Remains is set in Scotland, where Helen feels most at one with the world. Edinburgh and San Francisco are her two favourite cities, and she travels whenever she can.
Beyond writing, she has a passion for theatre and cinema, often boring friends and family with lengthy reviews and critiques. Taking her cue from her children, she has recently taken up karate and indoor sky diving. Helen and her husband now live in Hampshire with their three children and two dogs.
(Photos courtesy of Harper Collins website)
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Make sure to check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for more reviews and features.