S.J. Bolton's Now You See Me? Couldn't put this one down. If you're looking for a good, suspenseful read that will grip you almost from the first page and not let go until the last, Bolton is an always reliable author, and Now You See Me one of her best stories. Maybe even my favorite so far. I've always thought she does 'creepy' better than just about any other author I've read, but I think she's outdone herself this time. I've thoroughly enjoyed her previous stories, but sometimes a little imagination stretching is required to fully appreciate all the nuances. Not so much this time around. Bolton tries her hand now at a slightly unconventional police procedural with satisfying results.
Her books, though they all have contemporary settings, often have a taste of the gothic. As a matter of fact what she writes is considered 'modern gothic'. In the past her stories have relied heavily on legends and folklore that may call for something of a supernatural twist to help explain events. This time around she has a similar slant, but the myth she draws from and gives a twenty-first century spin to is the Jack the Ripper myth. Most people are familiar with Jack who murdered at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London in the 1880s. In Now You See Me, there is a copycat murderer on the loose and he seems awfully interested in DC Lacey Flint who narrates the story.
The novel opens with a horrific scene in which a woman who's just been stabbed falls against lacey's car and literally dies in her arms. Lacey had just left the flat of a prospective witness in a case she had been working on. She missed the killer by only seconds and no one in the complex saw anything either. When the police arrive Lacey is covered in the woman's blood so it's hard for the paramedics to figure out who exactly is the victim. Lacey finds herself in the uncomfortable position of being the sole witness to a crime, one that she feels somewhat responsible for. Had she just arrived a second earlier or noticed any oddities, she might have been able to prevent the murder.
Lacey, a fairly new recruit, becomes drawn into the investigation, but her position on the team is precarious. She's outside her normal environment and is only allowed to work with the rest of the detectives on this case because she witnessed the crime. Lacey proves useful in another way, however. Just twenty-four hours after the murder a reporter receives a note asking if "Saucy Jacky" is back and naming DC Flint by name. Although the murderer didn't get to finish the job, the note refers to how Jack the Ripper clipped his victim's ears and assures the reporter that he'll have ample opportunity later to do the job properly.
Lacey Flint is an interesting character, and the more she tells the story the more uncertain both the reader and the other detectives are about her; well, one in particular anyway. She seems to have an inordinately deep knowledge and maybe even unusual fascination with Ripper lore, which is partially why she is welcomed onto the team of detectives. She's able to fill them in on the intricacies of the orginal Ripper murders, and it's obvious she's well read about them as she can pull fact from fiction. She's also a bit of a loner, living in a flat that is a policeman's nightmare--so easy would it be to enter it. Her habit of picking up men in bars for one-night stands seems like particularly risky behavior to one of the detectives. It's hard to tell whether he's simply worried about her and the killer's interest in her, or if he's doubting just how truthful she's being in the investigation. Probably both.
Sorting out who the killer is and just why he's killing and how Lacey is connected makes for a complicated and suspenseful read. Like all good stories of this sort, there are lots of twists and turns and a few surprises along the way and not everyone and everything is as it seems. Since the Ripper murders provide the "inspiration" for the killer there are a number of details inserted that are perhaps not for the squeamish. And like her other novels Bolton goes for a 'big finish' with an edge of your seat climactic ending that I think surely must surpass even her previous books.
I've read and enjoyed Sacrifice and Blood Harvest, and I think I will have to read Awakening soon. As it has to do with snakes, and not being overly fond of them, I've put it off thus far but fear my resolve crumbling. My copy of Now You See Me came by way of Library Thing's Early Reader Program (but I would have bought or borrowed it in any case).
You can check out S.J. Bolton's website here and her blog here. And I see there is a sequel in the works that is due to be published in the UK early next year. Something to look forward to! For more thoughts on the book: