DCI Greg Carver is leading the hunt for a serial killer who leaves intricate tattoos on victims' bodies, but the investigation is thrown into turmoil when Carver is shot in his own home.
Five women. Five bodies full of increasingly elaborate tattoo art made with a thorn instead of a needle. Liverpool DCI Carver has been leading the Thorn Killer investigation team, until he’s found shot by his partner, the inscrutable DS Ruth Lake. It seems extremely suspicious that a police officer would come upon a crime scene, take the murder weapon and her partner’s secret notes on the case, and wipe the scene down for prints, all before calling for help. But it appears that Lake has a motive for everything, squeaky clean or not. With Carver laid up in the hospital and Lake told to stay away from the investigation into his shooting, being a semiwitness and all, she dives back into the Thorn Killer inquiry, focusing on the last victim, theater student Kara Grogan, a young woman who bore a striking resemblance to Carver’s estranged wife. As Lake dips her toe into the often vicious world of amateur theater, Carver fights his own battles at the hospital, trying to remember the events that put him there and whether the Thorn Killer is responsible. Interludes from the killer, while commonplace in crime fiction, are an unneeded crutch here but don’t slow the momentum.
With complicated leads and a ruthless killer whose method is barbaric enough to be frightening without shading into the grotesque, this is a debut worthy of sequels.