Carver’s debut novel, a thriller with a decidedly British flair, isn’t for the squeamish or easily frightened.
Something’s decidedly not right in Colchester: Four women, three of them pregnant, have been brutally murdered. In the cases of the pregnant victims, the murderer cut the babies from their mothers’ wombs and police believe the last child is still alive. The case falls to Detective Inspector Phil Brennan, chief investigating officer of the Major Incident Squad (the British equivalent of chief of detectives). Brennan and his officers, Anni Hepburn and Clayton Thompson, are trying to make sense of killings so brutal that even veteran officers find themselves sickened by the gory crime scenes. Colchester is unprepared for the homicides; it’s a peaceful, family-oriented place where homicides like these simply don’t happen. Officials, scrambling to solve the killings and find the missing baby, call in psychologist Marina Esposito. Marina is Phil’s former lover; they met over a case that turned sour and dangerous. Marina moved on and is, in fact, pregnant herself, although she’s not yet showing and doesn’t share her news. Soon, the investigation takes them to the last victim’s strapping former boyfriend and a woman with secret and deadly ties to police. While Phil, Marina and other investigators race against time to save the life of the infant, the killer is out again, looking for another victim. Graphic violence may turn off readers who prefer their thrillers less bloody, but the action is both convincing and necessary to the narrative arc. What’s less convincing is the plodding pace at which the police move in this case, with Marina providing dubious expert input, but plenty of emotional conflict. The book, a success in Europe, may also prove too heavily laden with English colloquialisms for American audiences. No attempt has been made to explain much of the slang, leaving those unfamiliar with the King’s English scratching their heads.
A good premise that’s long on promise, but the choppy writing, dominated by melodramatic one-liners, and stilted repetition of phrases (no one simply drinks anything, instead they take mouthfuls of their drinks) prove more distracting than thrilling.