The best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.
Becky Morgan’s family were the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’.
The lone survivor of a ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.
Twenty years later, with the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.
Will Becky avenge her family or join them?
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a deep and dark novel, with noir themes, and graphically described violence. The written imagery is vivid, and the suspense, and level of menace, this story engenders is intense.
Becky is the sole survivor of a horrific, ritualistic murder that robbed her of her close family, and left her, unsurprisingly, traumatised and emotionally damaged. Twenty years on, she is still suffering, despite therapy, and the comfort, sought from the bottom of a bottle. She needs closure and revenge. Spurred on by a cold case investigation, she is determined to find the person who destroyed her family and her chance of a happy life.
So many contemporary themes are covered in this detailed thriller, the dark web, hacking, institutional conspiracy, abuse and murder. Becky is a well-constructed protagonist, flawed because of her emotional damage and reliance on alcohol. She is unreliable but if you accept her faults, you have to admire her determination and strength, to find the killer and expose those who have allowed the killer to remain at large.
The first chapter sets the scene and tone of the book exquisitely. What follows is a detailed investigation to find out the players in the murderous game, and then the pursuit, which is adrenaline-fueled, fast-paced and violent. There are parts of this story that seem unrealistic, but it is fiction, and as such the author is allowed to bend reality a little.
Merging the horror and thriller genres, with a suspenseful mystery, this story will make you think, keep you turning the pages, and lock your doors.
Author and journalist PR Black lives in Yorkshire, although he was born and brought up in Glasgow. When he’s not driving his wife and two children to distraction with all the typing, he enjoys hillwalking, fresh air and the natural world, and can often be found asking the way to the nearest pub in the Lake District. His short stories have been published in several books including the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories and the Northern Crime One anthology. His Glasgow detective, Inspector Lomond, is appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He took the runner-up spot in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime-writing competition with “Ghostie Men”. His work has also been performed on stage in London by Liars’ League. He has also been shortlisted for the Red Cross International Prize, the William Hazlitt essay prize and the Bridport Prize. Twitter Facebook
Avenging Angels – Pat Black
In The Family, we meet an avenger in the journalist Becky Morgan. She’s hell-bent on finding the maniac who killed her mother, father, sister and brother and left her for dead when she was just a girl.
Becky’s tenacious, she’s smarter than the average bear, and she can kick you in the face from a standing position.
She follows on from a proud literary tradition of avenging – and revenging – angels. Let’s take a look at a few ruthless ladies you don’t want to mess with…
Stieg Larsson’s Salander is the ground zero for modern tough women. The star of the Millennium Trilogy will almost certainly help to define our times for future generations.
She’s slightly built and looks like an insecure teenager hiding behind piercings and outlandish haircuts. This assessment would be a mistake, and making it to her face might be a painful one for you.
Salander has been the victim of some terrible crimes, but she never lets this define her. She’s constantly moving forward, and whatever damage she’s suffered has not interfered with a strong sense of justice. In order to attain that, she will cut any corner necessary.
She’s no blunt instrument, though – Salander is a genius, a computer hacker who can break into anything, the equivalent of an ultra-creepy sleight of hand trickster who has your purse in his pocket before you can finish shuffling the pack.
The end justifies the means for Salander, whether that’s using her skills to expose the most intimate details of some sleazebag’s life and stripping them of all their money, or employing eye-watering levels of violence. You might not exactly warm to Salander or her methods, but you’re always rooting for the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Salander has a whole double album’s worth of greatest hits, but the punishment she metes out to her repellent legal guardian, Bjurman, is perhaps the most memorable.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
The stranger, “Charles Augustus Milverton”
Adultery and its consequences are the drivers of several plots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes tales, and this is particularly true of “Charles Augustus Milverton”.
The guy in the title is a blackmailer, and he loves his job. He doesn’t make idle threats – if people can’t pay up, he will expose their sins, both great and small. Perhaps even more than Moriarty, Holmes despises this villain.
That’s why he doesn’t lift a finger to stop one woman who – spoilers – enters stage left and turns Charles Augustus Milverton into Swiss cheese with a revolver… then stamps on his face for good measure. The old goat had hustled her husband into an early grave after exposing her secrets.
“Take that!” this sister yells, unloading on the fool again and again. “And that!”
I never forgot that savagery after first reading the story as a kid. The woman goes nameless, with Watson being a gentleman to the last following an injunction by Holmes, who places natural justice above written laws.
But what an impact she had. Several of them, in fact, at point blank range.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
No, he definitely will not.
Goodness me, everyone gets it in this novel. People who only half-deserve it get it. Even one or two who maybe only smirked a little bit get it. This isn’t payback. It’s a biblical disaster, visited upon an entire town through one odd girl’s unique psychic abilities.
Like the surgical scenes in The Exorcist movie, the most harrowing parts of Stephen King’s debut novel for me aren’t so much the supernatural elements or the gore, but the heartless abuse poor Carrie receives from her teenage peers. It strikes home for most readers, even before Carrie lashes out.
Telekinesis aside, the dark plot which ensnares Carrie is believably put together and executed. King, who taught in a high school, imbues his tragic heroine with believable qualities – so too for the bullies, both male and female. Hauntingly, King revealed in On Writing that there were true-life individuals who inspired Carrie White, with their own tragic fates.
Worst of all, Carrie is almost redeemed. It’s so agonisingly close to a fairytale ending. There’s a sign of the woman she might have become, free of the small town shackles, paroled from her evil mother’s closet. The ugly duckling, become a gorgeous swan. There’s even a heartbreaking hint that against all odds, she might just have found her prince. But one jealous, bitter, angry person simply cannot allow that.
And then… Blood and fire.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” No. No-one will.
But, you notice something here? These were all written by men. So…
Fay Weldon wrote one of the most horrifying short stories I’ve ever read. “Weekend” looks at a hard-working wife and mother, keeping all the plates spinning for her unappreciative family. Her husband has invited a friend to stay for the weekend. This guy has dumped his own loyal, loving wife for a younger woman. The writing appears on the wall.
There’s no catharsis in this story. That might be the worst thing about it. No verbal explosions, not one slapped cheek, no soup tureens upended. The wife and mother in “Weekend” simply accept her deal, the tiredness, the sarcasm, the appalling imbalances and injustices of her marriage. She is a doormat. No-one respects her. It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.
There is plenty of catharsis in Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil. Ruth is cut from the same cloth as the main character in “Weekend”, but she strikes back, taking a full English breakfast of revenge on her cheating husband Bobbo and his mistress, Mary Fisher.
In Ruth’s journey from dumped and dumpy wife to glamourous usurper and emasculator, she must surrender her identity and take on new ones, physically as well as mentally, in order to destroy her rival and get even with Bobbo.
There is no bill left unpaid by the end of this book.
Weldon has stated that She-Devil is not about revenge, but envy. You could have fooled me.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” (Terrified silence)
Is Susie Salmon an avenger? Not in the sense that she’s out for blood. She certainly hopes to expose the man who killed her – her creepy serial killer neighbour, Harvey. There’s just that slight inconvenience of being dead.
The main character in Alice Sebold’s troubling The Lovely Bones is a ghostly presence after Harvey kills her, more of an observer than an actor, but she does her best to guide her family towards where her remains are being kept.
Harvey does get his comeuppance – a strange, unspectacular, unmarked fate. But Susie’s heavenly mission is one of healing rather than destruction, as she tries to bring her family back together after the trauma of her disappearance. Maybe this act of repair, much more than one of violence, is the best revenge.