Today I’m delighted to share my review of Cat & Mouse, the latest Helen Grave novel by MJ Arlidge. I love this series and am always excited when I see a new book is on the horizon. I’ll admit that part of that is because I’m wondering what fresh hell the author has unleashed on poor Helen this time, but it still counts. My thanks to publisher Orion for the advance copy for review and to Tracy Fenton for the tour invite. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
When you think you’re safe,
When you think you’re all alone,
That’s when he’ll come for you…
A silent killer stalks the city, targeting those home alone at night, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the victims.
As panic spreads, Detective Inspector Helen Grace leads the investigation, but is herself a hunted woman, her every step shadowed by a ruthless psychopath bent on revenge.
As she tracks the murderer, Grace begins to suspect there is a truly shocking home truth that connects these brutal crimes. But what she will find is something more twisted than she could ever suspect…
Check the windows, lock the doors – this is a twisted page-turner that will prey on your darkest fears, in the way only M.J. Arlidge can.
I do love me a Helen Grace novel. Always dark, always packed with tension, stories that keep you absolutely gripped to the final page, and with a fictional detective who, in spite of her direct and sometimes prickly exterior, you cannot help but root for, what more can you ask for in a book? And believe me, you get all of that and more in Cat and Mouse, with a story that pushes Helen right to the edge, with a truly unexpected turn of events that could well threaten her career.
Now it’s not unusual for Mr Arlidge to treat us to a killer whose method of dispatch is particularly torturous and unpleasant and this book is no exception. Home invasions and brutal murders, with victims who have no obvious links other than how they have been killed. We are present from the very start, voyeurs of a murder that is enough to make the skin crawl, and to have you checking all your door and window locks twice before heading to bed. Not that this would necessarily be enough to deter this particular felon, but it’s certainly a situation to make you think. The opening is so tense, certain scenes playing out that made me hold my breath in nervous anticipation, wondering if the author could really do that dark … Whether he did or not, you’ll have to read to find out, but it was a nail-biting, pulse pounding few moments that’s for sure.
As always, the pacing in the book is top notch, playing out in fast, high impact chapters that really compel you on as a reader. It has that visual styling, the quick cut throughs that give us just enough action to keep up gripped and that kind fo oh lordy, cliffhanger ending that ensures you want to go straight onto the next chapter. That’s one of the things I love about this series. It feels like a fast read. Not in a blink and you’ll miss it, what happened to the book kind of way, but in a way that means your attention doesn’t have time to wander, a real sign of the authors screen writing credentials coming to bear in the narrative. I always find I have a keen sense of place and of character, but never too much detail that it makes the story hang. Every part of the action is carefully chosen and use to full effect. That is critical in this particular book as not only are we faced with a set of almost impossible to solve crimes, there is a real shadow cast over Helen Grace too.
Now if you haven’t read the preceding book in the series, Truth or Dare, then I would urge you to do so. Two very important threads of this novel link back to what happened before it, both of which put Helen Grace in significant danger and also put her off her stride. It’s not often we see our intrepid Detective put a foot wrong, but it’s fair to say that her attention is not fully on the job and the impact of that could prove deadly. She’s no longer the strong and infalible woman we know, and that jumpiness, that fear and constant sense of threat that seeps from the page, also breaks through into her professional life.
The tension surrounding Helen is high, the impacts of her fear and her reactions potentially devastating, and with conflict coming at her from all angles, it’s the first time in a very long time we have seen any sign of weakness. I really like Helen Grace, and her DS Charlie Brooks, but seeing her here, catching that frailty, does make her seem more human and more relatable. Don’t fear – she’s not all trembling hands and lily-livered in nature – there are some true Helen style scenes to thrill the ardent action fans, but we get to witness the insecure side of her too, and I kind of liked it. For a one off, moment in time kind of deal obviously. She’s at her best when she is sharp as a tack, and there is plenty of evidence the old Helen is still right there, her true grit rising to the surface when it matters most.
With scenes of pulse-thumping action, a killer with dark and twisted notices, and a storyline so packed with tension and threat that you won’t want to turn away this is another classic Helen Grace thriller and a fine example of why I love this series so much. Definitely recommended.
About the Author
Matthew (MJ) Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specialising in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit TV show Innocent. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014 and has been followed by nine more DI Helen Grace bestsellers including the latest, All Fall Down. In 2015, his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller.
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