Hunted | Paul Finch | 2015 | Avon | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg’s secondment to the Lake District is over and he’s back with the Serial Crimes Unit – and not a moment too soon. Heck’s boss, Superintendent Gemma Piper, has had her interest piqued by her mother’s suspicion that the recent gruesome death of her golfing friend, Harold Lansing, was in fact a gruesomely elaborate murder. Heck is sent to Surrey to help the local police to investigate, only to find that they already have their suspicions. It soon transpires that something very wrong and strange is taking place in the leafy suburbs of Surrey. Heck and his Surrey colleague Gail Honeyford begin to uncover evidence of other strange deaths – killer spiders and scorpions in cars, loose scaffolding, rogue blimps and more. As the body count rises, Heck and Gail find themselves on the hunt for one or more murderers who display no sign of motive, picking victims with no apparent connection, and, if the possible sightings are to be believed, of the most peculiar appearance.
Hunted is the fifth Heck novel but the fact that it was my first didn’t matter at all. I was thrown into the story immediately and there were enough small clues to allow me to pick up on a little of what had gone on before without spoiling the plots of the previous novels – which is just as well as I immediately bought the four other books.
First and foremost, Hunted‘s story is fabulous. The crimes and murderers are intriguingly original and unusual (not to mention imaginative) and they are described in a clinically gory and horrific manner that is really rather thrilling. I’m not going to lie, there was a lot here that appealed to the macabre-loving element of the crime-fiction-reading side of my brain. But Hunted is not a traditional melodramatic crime fiction novel – its roots are grounded in reality and so there is a section of the book that plunges us into another crime world, that of gangs and gangsters. There are a lot of red herrings in this investigation. All of them must be followed diligently and, very cleverly, one or two of them after all may yield their own surprises (as well as the odd death trap) in the path of our intuitive and resourceful detectives.
Heck is a fantastic creation. I liked him instantly. There is a Past to him, a fair bit of which (but not all) seems to involve ‘the Super’, but it’s not laboured and it serves its role without distracting Heck from his focus. And he is very focused indeed. But he’s also good at the social game and he has to be, moving around police forces and colleagues. He’s also not frightened of sticking up for people who need a bit of support and here he provides that to Gail Honeyford who, for a newly introduced character, is a very interesting figure indeed and I hope we meet her again. Gemma Piper is another character I liked immensely. I enjoyed the interaction between these characters.
The mix of gritty detective fiction with flamboyant and dramatic crimes works wonderfully in Hunted. It is very well written and it has quite a pace to it. I had high hopes for it and it exceeded them. I did not want to put it down. I now consider myself a fully fledged fan of Heck and look forward to encountering him again – it’s good news indeed that I now have his other investigations ready to read.