Helen Fields – Perfect Crime
Published by Avon Books, paperback £7.99. I bought this book new.
For her previous book, Perfect Silence, Helen Fields did a pop-up signing at Bloody Scotland in Stirling. I snaffled a copy – new-to-me-author? yes please! – and while I felt the plot pushed the boundaries hard in terms of graphic horror, the character of DI Luc Callanach was a massive redeeming feature, along with the Edinburgh setting, so I happily picked up Perfect Crime.
Short chapters and a breathless pace from the start keep the pages turning: A would-be suicide is rescued – then found dead elsewhere a short time later. A middle-aged woman is found with her wrists slashed. Meanwhile, Callanach and his boss, DCI Ava Turner, are both separately wrestling with their personal lives – with one element of Callanach’s past very much invading his present. Another two deaths, and the death of trust in a friendship. A fishing expedition with live bait yields suspects.
It eventually becomes clear who the killer must be, putting the reader ahead of the cops (always a satisfying experience, I feel). An officer’s life hangs in the balance, but Turner and the team arrive in the nick of time. Elsewhere, a figure from Callanach’s past arrives, allowing him to join the dots on two deaths he is seemingly linked to, and to draw a line under a painful period of his life at last. However, anyone hoping for a happy ending will be sorely disappointed, as Turner drops a bombshell in the last pages – one perfectly designed to whet the appetite for the next book.
Fields is a much more unflinching writer than some in terms of the violence she spreads across the pages and in the creation of her bad guys, but she is also unflinching in terms of the emotional pain she has her characters experience (as well as the physical pain – she puts Turner through the wringer here). However, she is not gratuitous; I feel she’s more about showing unvarnished realities rather than trying to shock readers for the sake of it. And her handling of the issue of suicide is tactful and compassionate, not flippant.
Everything is dialled up here – if you’re looking for a quietly tense psychological examination of character with a minimal body count, these are not the novels for you. But Field’s bold strokes, relentless motion and vibrant characters deliver an entertaining read – just remember to hang on tight.
Follow the author on Twitter at: @Helen_Fields