Crime Fiction Alphabet: B is for Bolton

I must confess that for a very long time I left S J Bolton’s books on the library shelves, thinking that she wasn’t the author for me. Her books looked far too dark. But I did read an awful lot of praise for her books.

And so when a copy of her first novel, ‘Sacrifice’, came my way I gave it the benefit of the doubt. I’m glad I did. It was dark, but it was compelling, and it touched on some very interesting themes.

The next of her books that I read, ‘Now You See Me’, helped me understand why she was so good.

It opens with a dark and dramatic scene. Lacey Flint, a young police officer, comes home after a day at work. She sees a woman leaning against her car. She speaks, but the woman doesn’t react. She reaches out, and she finds her hand covered in blood. The woman is critically, maybe fatally, injured. Lacey responds, but it is much too late. The woman dies, and the young police officer is now a key witness in a murder enquiry.

I’d usually shy away from a scene like that, but I was pulled in. Lacey’s perspective became mine and I reacted with her.

The murder was one of a series: a psychopathic killer was copying the crimes of Jack the Ripper.  Lacey had studied the Ripper. She knew every fact, every theory. And it wasn’t by chance that she was drawn into the case.

The murders were brutal, but the brutality was balanced by a compelling plot and intelligent treatment of underlying themes. And by Lacey, a complex character who was withholding more than she was telling.

I came up with a few theories as the plot twisted and turned, but the dramatic finale still took me by surprise.

I didn’t expect to meet Lacey again, but I did. In S J Bolton’s next novel: ‘Dead Scared’.

She was sent to Cambridge University, to pose as a student. Because there had been a suspiciously high number of suicides among the students, particularly among attractive young women.

Lacey discovered that many of these students had reported having problems sleeping, had believed that intruders had been in their rooms while they slept. Something was badly wrong.

The only person at Cambridge who knew Lacey’s true identity was Evi Oliver, the psychiatrist who had triggered the investigation. Lacey and Evi found patterns, found evidence of foul play. But both were having bad dreams, troubling things were happening.

Once again, S J Bolton provided an intriguing plot, compelling characters and serious themes, and once again I was hooked as the story twisted and turned on its was to a dramatic finale.

Lacey has grown into a wonderful character and her complex relationship with her colleague, Mark Joesbury, has evolved nicely. Hopefully they’ll both be back again

I just wish I’d read ‘Blood Harvest’ before this book, as Evi made her first appearance there and it might have helped if I knew a little more of her backstory. It probably wasn’t critical, but I will read ‘Blood Harvest’ soon to find out.

As a general rule I still don’t like dark crime fiction with sensational storylines. But the writing, the plotting, the characterisation, the intelligence in SJ Bolton’s books is such that I have to make an exception for her.

*****

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

“Each week, beginning Monday 21 May 2012, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”

So next week, B is for … ?

5 responses

  1. I’ve read one of Bolton’s books, Blood Harvest, so Evi Oliver is familiar to me. I really liked that novel so I will have to try Now You See Me. Though her books are dark they are very compelling and have great characters.

  2. I’ve read three of Bolton’s books – Sacrifice being the first one I read. Usually I don’t like dark and explicit crime fiction but that one, Awakening and Blood Harvest are the exceptions – I thought they’re excellent. But I’m still not sure about Now You See Me – the brutality is putting me off reading it. I did start it – maybe I should try again.

  3. I like you have stayed away from this author. Sometimes I avoid books when everywhere you look is about them. I then discover them when the fuss has died down and then regret waiting to read them all. Will add this author to my tbr list.

  4. I tend to avoid this type of crime fiction too, but I make an exception for SJ Bolton. I enjoyed both the Lacey Flint books, especially the first one, and am hoping to read Blood Harvest soon so I can find out more about Evi Oliver.

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