Dead Lucky | Matt Brolly | 2016 | Carina | c.320p | Review copy | Buy the book
Eustace Sackville, an investigative journalist, is tied to a chair opposite his wife Moira, whose wrists have been slit. He has no choice but to sit there and watch his 60-year-old wife slowly bleed to death before his eyes, himself watched by her killer. DCI Michael Lambert is assigned the case – he’s used to dealing with sensitive crimes and this one is going to need all of his skills as well as those of his new detective sergeant, Matilda Kennedy. The devastating impact of the crime on Eustace turns this into a personal case for Lambert but it’s not long before he is to see worse. Another family is targeted, there is much more loss of life, and this time, more than ever, it is clear that there are even worse things than being killed – sometimes it is worse to be the only one left alive. When the killer suddenly contacts Lambert, it becomes more imperative than ever for the murderer to be stopped. The cost of failure would be higher than Lambert could bear.
But both Lambert and Kennedy have more on their plates than this case, despite it consuming almost every waking hour. Lambert’s home situation is as confused as ever while Kennedy has her own secret she’d much prefer the team never to discover. Fortunately, though, Lambert and Kennedy soon discover that they work well together, which is just as well considering what this murderer, nicknamed The Watcher by the press, will demand of them.
Last year’s Dead Eyed was a fine crime fiction debut by Matt Brolly, which left me wanting much more quickly. It was such a pleasant surprise to discover how quickly Dead Lucky was following on its heels. Dead Lucky works well on its own but, although it’s not vital, I would certainly recommend you read Dead Eyed if you can.
Dead Lucky is an engrossing read, very hard to put down and with a killer that chills to the bone. The mystery is thoroughly satisfying, complex and brilliantly thought out – I didn’t guess – and maintained the tension and menace right up until the exhilarating, blood pumping climax. We spend much of the time with Lambert but we see the investigation from Kennedy’s side as well and I really grew to like this character very much indeed. She is the perfect foil for Lambert who can take things too seriously at times. Mind you, with his home life it’s not surprising.
But apart from Lambert and Kennedy, there are other figures here that make deep impressions. Eustace Sackville is a great portrait of a man taken to the very depths. He is so well-drawn by Matt Brolly but Eustace isn’t the only one. This books is full of fine character portraits.
While I enjoyed Dead Eyed very much, I do think Dead Lucky takes a step up. This is a tighter and better structured novel, its characters very well-developed. But the main difference, which I liked, is that Lambert is more settled here. He’s working within a team and not against it. He still takes risks but this time he has Kennedy to share the danger. Their partnership plays a significant role in the book and greatly adds to the enormous pleasure that comes from reading this novel. When I finished it, after having been buried in it for two days, all I wanted was more. Matt Brolly has become an author to watch.