Neil Broadfoot – The Point Of No Return
Published by Constable, hardback £19.99. I received a copy from the author for review purposes.
Colin Sanderson has been released from prison, his life sentence for the murders of two young women 14 years ago quashed. He returns to live with his father just a few miles away from the murder scenes in Stirling – and Connor Fraser is hired by the PR firm handling Sanderson’s book deal to provide security after threats are made against him.
Connor is less than keen on the assignment, but DCI Malcolm Ford – who was on the fringes of the original investigation – persuades him to take the job. Convinced they had the right man all those years ago, Ford needs someone he can trust to watch Sanderson.
As it happens, the person being approached to ghost-write Sanderson’s book, and getting exclusive access to him for an in-depth TV interview, is Donna Blake. And while Sanderson makes it clear to Connor he doesn’t want the babysitting service, he does want to put his side of the story out with Donna’s help.
Meanwhile, Duncan MacKenzie – the slightly shady businessman father of Connor’s girlfriend, Jen – is also taking an interest in Sanderson’s return, which means his “pet sociopath” Paulie is flexing his muscles and cracking his knuckles in anticipation of a spot of violence somewhere along the line.
And while the foundations of the story are built, there is someone watching from the shadows, eager to test the edge of their knife against delicate skin; the little interludes dropped between chapters giving the reader chills.
Then all hell breaks loose as a young woman’s body is found in Stirling, with a familiar, horrific pattern of wounds…
From here on, the pace never drops – to the point where I wish it would, I’d like to draw breath and draw my own conclusions about what’s going on, for isn’t that part of the fun? But no, it only increases as Connor, Ford and Donna work their way inexorably to the truth. The final section is particularly action-packed, with Broadfoot’s now-trademark bare knuckle violence employed unflinchingly. The only option is to strap in and enjoy the ride (warning: if you don’t like violence or swearing, this may not be the series for you!).
Then suddenly we’ve hit the end and the case is all wrapped up – but, satisfyingly, there are loose ends and possible new horizons being hinted at for our main characters.
I’ll always want a meaty plot in any crime novel I read, but I’m also looking for books to put on the shelf to re-read. What makes a book worth re-reading when you already know whodunnit? Simple: the characters. What makes characters worth revisiting? Also simple: depth and growth. A writer doesn’t start a series knowing everything about their protagonist, but as they are put into various situations, more is revealed. And of course a writer is forever the whining child asking “but why?” – ask this of a character and you never know what answer you will get. Broadfoot has prodded Connor in the chest while asking the question, and been given a hell of an answer in return which he puts to good use in The Point Of No Return. Digging into Connor’s family background, Broadfoot is mining a rich seam which promises to keep producing gems for future novels in the series, as well as allowing us to see our hero differently in this book.
I’m still shouting at the pages as Connor wavers in his commitment to Jen – I do not know how she has the patience to deal with him, but I hope one day we find out. I’m still quietly cheering every time we see Paulie, for all his sociopathic tendencies he’s a real joy. And having closed the covers I’m still eager to see where Broadfoot takes us next – though I’m not sure the good people at Stirling’s tourist board will be quite so keen…
Neil Broadfoot’s Connor Fraser books are now also available in audiobook format, as well as print and ebook. You can read my reviews of series opener No Man’s Land here, and of book two, No Place To Die, here.
(Full disclosure: Neil and I have been friends for many years, but his books earn their place on the blog like anyone else’s on the only criteria that matters: are they any good? Trust me, he’d be the first to know if I didn’t think they were… :-D)