Like This, For Ever – S J Bolton
This is S J Bolton’s sixth book overall but third in the Lacey Flint series. Having enjoyed her first three standalone novels (especially the hint of the supernatural that ran through them), I was wary of the news that S J Bolton was switching to a more of a detective style franchise. I shouldn’t have worried. The first two books were excellent and I have eagerly awaited her latest novel.
The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach.
There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find.
There will be no warning about who will be next.
There will be no good reason for young policewoman Lacey Flint to become involved . . . And no chance that she can stay away.
With “Like This, For Ever,” S J Bolton has moved this series into the upper echelon of crime writing. Although only three books in, it is far too easy for an author to regurgitate the same story for their detective with the only difference being the new premises at the start of each book. S J Bolton has already taken steps to avoid the trap and keep things interesting.
She has achieved this by making her book about the supporting cast just as much as the main protagonists. Few authors succeed in this. James Patterson has Alex Cross constantly saving the day which can get tiresome whilst others like John Connolly, have a great supporting cast of characters but the books will always be about Charlie Parker (must stress John is one of my favourite authors and makes his books fresh in a number of other ways).
It is the Karin Slaughter’s and Mark Billingham’s of the world that really succeed in making their secondary cast just as interesting as their protagonists. Karin Slaughter can have any of her main characters drop out the series and it would still continue seamlessly. With “Like This, For Ever,” I believe that S J Bolton is approaching the same situation.
Her protagonist is Lacey Flint. We join Lacey whilst she is on sabbatical, recovering from her ordeal in the last book. As a result although we watch her attempt to rebuild her life she is not directly involved with solving the crime. In fact, for a large portion of the novel, she is kept away from proceedings. Like all great characters, Lacey is flawed. She does not comply with her therapists wishes but puts all of her energy into trying to outfox her. She has become insular and unsure of herself. The result feels fresh and unpredictable – in a word it works.
With Lacey sidelined the focus of the novel does not fall to the obvious choice Mark Joesbury. Instead we learn more about Dana Tulloch and her background. It means that although the main character is Lacey, the other characters are of equal importance and each has a sense to shine in the spotlight in their own right.
Dana and Mark have a great relationship built on their history and a healthy dose of respect. They interactions with Lacey are also riveting as their roles appear to have reversed following on from the last book.
“Like This, For Ever” also introduces on a new character. Barney is a young boy, who along with his friends is caught up with the attention surrounding the murders. Gifted in the sense that he is able to see patterns in things, Barney is a great character. He is vulnerable, suspicious and smart. His home life leaves him time to ponder the killer’s motives and question the loyalty of those around him. It is little surprise that Lacey latches on to him and tries to protect him.
The plot is great. It meanders in and out of the characters lives, making each one a suspect. S J Bolton does an excellent job in leading you to think you have been clever and solved the mystery only to rip the rug out from underneath you. It is the sign of a distinguished story teller, who is improving with every book.
The conclusion is satisfying and nicely wrapped up. S J Bolton writes her endings with a realism that I appreciate. There are no dragged out dramatic scenes for the sake of it.
Overall, I was pleased that S J Bolton continues to impress me. Another excellent novel.
My rating: 9