In Poulson’s debut novel, a London inspector searches for an elusive serial killer who seems to have been killing for nearly a century.
In 1962, a murdered woman is written off as a Jane Doe, and the case goes cold. Sixteen years later, that case’s investigator, the now-retired Inspector John Alker, is shown a photo of a woman, recently gone missing, who seems to be the identical twin of that unidentified victim. John and his team of coppers and friends soon uncover a perplexing pattern: women, newly reported missing, who have apparently been found dead years ago. Despite a predictable sci-fi twist, Poulson’s novel offers genuine suspense throughout as elements of the mystery are gradually revealed, such as a 19th-century victim’s pierced tongue, or a dominatrix’s notebook of codes. Though the story is strong overall, one chapter, about a bullied young boy in 1962 falsely accused of impregnating a classmate, is solid but seems out of place; its link to the overall narrative remains unclear until the book is nearly over. The novel also suffers on occasion from awkwardly worded sentences (“John had ribbed her, joking yet not, at her sour expression and the venom of her outcry”). There are also a few characters who share the same first names, a fact that may have readers seeking correlations that may not exist. Even the name of the main character, John, has a dual significance, as characters assume he is a john as he questions prostitutes.
A gripping mystery with sci-fi elements and an endearing protagonist.