A young couple discovers their budding romance has disturbing links to a string of crimes committed by a serial killer.
Michael Beaumont falls hard for Alison Parsons the first time their eyes meet across a crowded pub in Brighton. By the end of the night, she—and the reader—knows loads about Michael (he’s 20, works as a runner at a post-production studio in London with the hopes of making it in Hollywood someday, and was raised by his Grandmother Rose) while divulging very little about herself other than that she’s a travel agent in Brighton recently back from a five-year stint in Australia. They’re soon caught up in a whirlwind romance as London is gripped by a rampaging killer dubbed the Madman, who grabs random children and chucks them off bridges and piers. As the body count rises (Prebble has no qualms about knocking off the under-10 set), police scramble for leads. Back in lovebird land, Michael takes a big step and introduces Alison to Rose, who’s in Greenacres care home after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The meeting goes poorly, with Rose shrieking rather than welcoming Alison with open arms, causing Michael to start wondering—as the reader has many pages prior—if his paramour might be hiding something. Somewhat predictably, Michael and Alison are drawn into the heart of the Madman investigation, which causes all sorts of secrets—some expected and some actually revelatory—to come to light in the all-out hunt for the killer.
While Prebble (The Insect Farm, 2015) flounders when writing believably youthful characters, he spins an entertaining tale full of enough twists to gloss over this shortcoming.