A sadistic killer targets the few young women of Colchester to have survived Carver’s blistering debut (The Surrogate, 2011).
Speech therapist Suzanne Perry awakens from an unusually vivid nightmare to find a revealing, very recent photograph of herself on which someone’s written, “I’M WATCHING OVER YOU.” Her nocturnal visitor is the Creeper, who’s already claimed at least one victim, missing occupational therapist Julie Miller, though the gruesomely disfigured corpse will have to await DNA evidence for identification. But who is the Creeper, and what does he have against the staff of Colchester General Hospital? DI Phil Brennan, once again in charge of the investigation, hasn’t a clue. Nor has his scheming boss, DCI Ben Fenwick, who’s presumably too busy shagging DS Rose Martin, the CID plod in charge of Julie’s disappearance, to get any brainwaves that reach as far north as his brain. The psychological portrait that Fenwick’s handpicked profiler, Ph.D. student Fiona Welch, compiles could apply to just about anyone. The first suspect Phil and his colleagues focus on, Suzanne’s ex-tutor and alleged stalker Anthony Howe, tries to kill himself while he’s in police custody. In the meantime, the Creeper has returned to Suzanne’s flat to kill Zoe Herriot, the friend and colleague who’d been staying with her, and abscond with Suzanne to a place of unspeakable horrors.
Carver doesn’t stint on the fun-house shocks and shivers, and gourmands of violence, physical and psychological, will have a field day. But there’s so much straining to get in your face, so many chapters from the Creeper’s point of view, and such a pat motive for all the mayhem, that the nasty thrills never upstage the dysfunctional relationships within the Colchester constabulary.