Today I am sharing my thoughts on The Killing Choice, book two in the Alex Finn series by Will Shindler. I loved the first book, The Burning Men when I read it last year and so couldn’t wait to get stuck into this latest offering. My thanks to publisher Hodder & Stoughton for providing an advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
Leave your daughter with me, or I will kill you both’
It felt like a normal Friday evening before Karl and his daughter Leah were ambushed by a figure in a blank mask. At knife point, Karl is forced to make an impossible choice. Stay and die, or walk away from Leah and take this thug’s word that they both will live.
Should Karl trust a villain and leave his daughter with a knife at her throat? Could he ever live with himself if he did?
It’s not long before more seemingly unconnected and innocent people across London are offered a deal in exchange for their life. More blood is spilled, more families shattered, and more people are left to suffer with the consequences of their decisions.
DI Alex Finn and DC Mattie Paulsen must hunt for a killer that appears to have no face, no motive and no conscience before more victims are forced to make their choice.
This is second in Will Shindler’s Finn and Paulsen series – a British detective series that ranks with Mark Billingham, M.J. Arlidge and Stuart MacBride.
Don’t be fooled by the opening paragraphs of this book. It may seem quite pedestrian, quite every day, but by the end of that first chapter readers are faced with a story full of tension, mystery and emotion as one by one a series of victims are faced with an impossible choice, one. that proves to be very, very deadly. This is a story that makes you think long and hard about how you would react in a similar situation – when faced with a question of saving your own life or that of a loved one – what would you choose.
It is a quite a dramatic opener for what turns out to be an emotional rollercoaster of a read. With the absolute misery and guilt of those who are left behind playing out so clearly on the page, I found myself completely drawn into the story and intrigued as to what would drive a killer to act in such a seemingly random way. How did they choose their victims? What made them so determined to cause such utter misery. That is answered in an almost stealthy way as the clues are drip fed to readers throughout the investigation. When it came down to it, I had guessed the why correctly, but the who remained a mystery until nearly the end of the book, which kept the suspense at just the right level for the nature of the story.
I really do like. the characters of Alex Finn and Mattie Paulsen. They are like chalk and cheese, but work well together, playing off each other’s strengths and covering for each other’s weaknesses. And they do have weaknesses, the author making them ultimately very human. watching them both navigate some very difficult emotional times in their personal life took the tension out of the story just enough but helped to amplify the emotional impact of the scenes where the victims families were involved. Finn really is struggling this time around, hiding behind his job, and avoiding his grief more than is sensible, but it serves to make his character and his reactions feel very authentic. Watching Paulsen navigate a slightly new role as family liaison was intriguing, her confidence and surety taking a back seat. She is far from the most sociable or likable character and faced with a victim who doesn’t want her help. It leaves her with a real sense of guilt for how things play out, second guessing herself and her judgment, even if only for a brief moment. In terms of the other characters, the victims, the families, I couldn’t always feel entirely sympathetic towards them for reasons that will be apparent as you read the book, but I was still invested in their story, keen to understand what drove them to their choices and actions every bit as much as the killer.
This is a story driven by family, loss, revenge and impossible choices. Tension and pacing are just right, the urgency that can be felt in terms of trying to prevent any further murders, tempered by the fact that the motives of the killer and connections between the victims are far from clear. There is a good balance between the investigative process and the personal side of the cases and those connected to them that kept me engaged from start to finish. The killings in this book are cruel, but perhaps not as gruesome as its predecessor, and yet the impact of them is just as compelling to read. I will be interested to see where the author takes this series next. Recommended.
About the Book
Will Shindler has been a Broadcast Journalist for the BBC for over twenty-five years, spending a decade working in television drama as a scriptwriter on Born and Bred, The Billand Doctors. His time on these leading prime time dramas has given him a rich grounding in authentic police procedure, powerful character development and gripping narratives. He currently combines reading the news on BBC Radio London with writing crime novels and has previously worked as a television presenter for HTV, a sports reporter for BBC Radio Five Live, and one of the stadium presenters at the London Olympics. He is the writer of The Burning Men and The Killing Choice.