Rhodes’ debut novel dips into the familiar waters of a woman in jeopardy confronted by a cunning killer.
Psychologist Alice Quentin, tortured by a past dominated by an abusive father, submissive mother and mentally ill brother, finds the police on her London doorstep when a convicted murderer is due to be released. Police want Alice to meet the man and tell them whether they should watch him once he’s out. It’s all the more urgent since Morris Cley, the killer, was the bosom buddy of an infamous couple of serial killers who slaughtered young women and defaced their corpses with dozens of crosses cut into their skin. When Alice goes out for her daily run, she finds a dead body in Crossbones Yard, a London graveyard where hundreds of prostitutes were buried more than a century ago, and the young girl shows similar markings. Soon, Cley shows up at Alice’s door, and she finds herself under unwanted police protection, but the police are depending on her as the best in her field to help them predict what the killer, who they believe is the now-missing Cley, will do next. Complicating matters is Alice’s violent bipolar brother, who won’t take his medication and insists on living in a camper in the parking lot of her building; her old childhood friend Lola, a gorgeous but unsuccessful actress who shows up on her doorstep; Sean, an abusive ex-flame; and Ben, a dark, serious police officer who finds himself drawn to the psychologist. Rhodes’ writing is competent, but the predictable plot twists disappoint: The plucky, beautiful heroine constantly places herself in danger, every man she meets falls for her, and the police can’t properly pull off the investigation without her help. Why the police need Alice, who is not an expert on serial killers, never quite becomes clear, serving instead as a glaring storyline weakness.
The author stretches the reader’s credulity by relying on coincidence after coincidence to propel the fragile plot forward.