Orion | 2019 (24 January) | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book
When DS Alice Parr is first on the scene at a stabbing, it’s not long before she and the rest of her team understand that this is far more than a mugging gone wrong. Alice is changed by the attack. She holds the hand of the woman whose throat has been cut, only able to utter one word before she falls into a coma: ‘wolf’. Alice is determined to discover the identity of this woman and to catch the person whom, she’s more than certain, will prove to be a murderer. Alice’s boss and colleagues, especially her closest friend Poppy, worry for Alice. It’s not long since she survived a terrible fire. She carries the scars and the trauma. But Alice is not going to give this case away. But who is this victim? The clues she’s left behind will lead Alice on an extraordinary journey of secrets and lies, each more elaborate than the last. And watching it all will be the killer.
Emma Kavanagh is one of my favourite authors, and is one of the writers who got me back into reading crime fiction several years ago. I have much to be grateful to her for. Each of her books stands alone. They’re unusual, distinct and clever crime mysteries, asking questions about identity and relationships. To Catch a Killer demonstrates this yet again. But the first thing to mention is how beautiful the writing is. We spend much of the time in Alice’s head. And, despite the trauma of the recent fire, it’s an utterly believable place to be – Alice feels recognisable emotions, especially guilt and fear, and this is expressed by Emma Kavanagh with such feeling and empathy. I cared for Alice from the very beginning and this continued through the novel, enriching the real power of its complex and thoroughly satisfying plot.
That brings me on to one of the main reasons why To Catch a Killer stands out. It constantly shifts the ground from under the reader’s feet. So little can be taken for granted. But the plot is grown through the most fascinating detective work by Alice and her team as they follow an astonishing trail of clues. Alice is an instinctive detective. We see how she pulls things together, making leaps into the dark and discovering results. But there is a strong sense that understanding remains beyond reach, that the killer is always at least one step ahead and knows it. The reader constantly has to reassess their opinions. Yet it’s not done clinically – there’s emotion here, quite a lot of it. And we get completely involved in the story of this mysterious woman found so close to death by Alice.
A new novel by Emma Kavanagh is always such a treat and To Catch a Killer is especially good. It’s engrossing and extremely difficult to put down as we’re taken deeper and deeper into its layers of mystery. You might work out some of it, as I did, but there will be so much here to surprise you. I was left with an even deeper admiration for Emma Kavanagh’s skill than I had before. I’m not going to forget Alice in a hurry.
I’m delighted to review To Catch a Killer as part of the blog tour to celebrate its publication on 24 January. For other stops on the tour, do take a look at the poster below.