Today it is my great pleasure to share my thoughts on Dead Inside, the debut novel from fellow blogger Noelle Holten, aka CrimeBookJunkie. Before I tell you what I thought, here is what the book is all about:
About the Book
A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.
The killer is just getting started…
When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.
The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.
And he is Lucy’s husband.
Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Playstore | iBooks
So. This is interesting. A book I have been looking forward to reading from a long time from an author I know relatively well and someone whose journey from blogger to published author I have been following. It makes it both a great and also scary prospect when you sit down to read as it becomes a question of what happens if you don’t enjoy the story and, if I do, will people even believe what I have to say about the book anyway? I could lie and say I’ve never heard of Noelle’s blog, but blogging is a very small world, made smaller by the power of social media, and to say we’ve never met would be a lie as the photographic evidence is there all over the tinterweb.
Well – thankfully I don’t have to worry about the first half of that question as this is a book that had me hooked from the start, a book that I literally tore through finishing in a few hours. With Dead Inside, Noelle Holten has created a world which brings together the many facets of a police investigation, and all of the agencies who are integral to solving crimes. Many of them are typically overlooked in favour of the common or garden Police Detective, the lads and lasses with the warrant cards etc who do the digging, the plodding and the arresting and make life generally difficult for the bad guys. Their inclusion in Dead Inside adds a new and interesting perspective to the book, giving it a sense of authenticity which is then backed up by an entertaining and engrossing plot.
The basic premise is clear from the blurb, so I don’t need to go far into the plot itself. Whilst this is billed as a Maggie Jamieson story, and Maggie, the main Detective in this novel, will join us throughout the series, this is really Lucy’s story. Lucy is a probation officer, one who has ties, sometimes tenuous, to domestic abusers and sex offenders, a number of whom find themselves on the receiving end of some pretty rough, and ultimately deadly, justice. Needless to say that despite her job and her links to the police, the commonality between the deceased and Lucy as their PO is just too obvious to be ignored. But is Lucy a murderer or a victim?
Well, you’re going to have to read the book to find out. I really liked the way in which the author set up the characters in the book, particularly in creating the complex domestic situation which Lucy found herself in. She has captured that feeling of isolation and resignation that defines so many victims of abuse, and the way in which an abuser can turn on a dime. Charming to friends one minute, wielding his fists or his tongue the next to his spouse or partner. You could feel the helplessness, the sense of defeat which Lucy experienced, but also the ultimate strength she had within her to face these types of people every day in her job and not crumble. This is where the author’s own experience as a Probation Officer shines through as the scenes between Lucy and her assigned offenders, and also between Lucy and her colleagues, including the police, felt very real and believable. And Lucy is a very human character, with all the typical flaws and attributes that we can recognise, including an overwhelming sense of protection for her husband’s children. Very noble, very sincere, very likely to be the cause of her undoing.
There are a lot of characters to get to know in this book, many of them we will no doubt meet again in other investigations. They were all diverse, capturing the true nature of people from all walks of life. Some were easy to like, Maggie and Lucy being chief amongst them. Psychologist Kate Moloney was an interesting introduction to the team, but we’re really only just getting to know her in book one so I’m intrigued to see how the character is developed in the following books. Now there may be some very familiar names amongst the characters for some readers, but many are placed in very unfamiliar settings and situations so while it will likely make some people smile, there may be a few surprises in store for you too.
As for the killer – well, their identity is cleverly woven into the story and if you keep your wits about you there are enough clues for it to become apparent before the end, but also enough red herrings to keep even the most intrepid Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot on their toes. What I can say is that this book kept me turning pages all afternoon – I only stopped reading for a quick bite to eat – and in a year where I am struggling to focus on reading for more than a few minutes at a time, that is no small feat.
For me the author pitched this book just right. This isn’t a book which trivialises abuse, and the victims of the abusers are portrayed in a very sensitive way, contrasting against the increasingly aggressive manner in which the abusers meet their ends. The author’s love for all things crime fiction shines through in a compelling narrative, and I’m sure that it’s just the first in what will be a very popular and successful series. And if you want to get ahead of the curve then book two, Dead Wrong, is already available for pre-order. I personally can’t wait to see what Maggie and co get up to next as the ending of this book promised something very exciting to come.
A compelling, wonderfully layered, entertaining and occasionally quite emotive story that crime fiction lovers are going to eat up. Nice one Noelle. More please.
The book is released in e-book on 31st May and paperback on 22nd August so you can go ahead and get that pre-order in by using one of the handy links near the top of this post. You know it makes sense.
About the Author
Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at http://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the book love via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.