An Internet bully decides to take the next step to actual violence in the latest Tony Hill and Carol Jordan thriller.
The killer is targeting outspoken advocates for women’s rights and making their deaths look like suicides. His goal is not only to silence them, but to make it appear as if the online bullying and threats directed at these women were so powerful that they crumbled under a sustained show of male force. Hill can’t make the suicide of one victim jibe with the strength the woman showed in her public appearances. The seed of doubt planted in his mind provides the opening for the investigation, as Jordan is facing a battle with booze brought on by recent violent trauma. The book has hold of a great subject: the chauvinist pig-pile of online misogyny. The problem is that the killer’s motivation—his belief that his mother’s feminist beliefs led to her separation from the family and her death when he was just a child—feels strained. As a character, he lacks the horrifying individuality of the murderers in past Hill-Jordan outings like The Mermaids Singing (1996) and The Wire in the Blood (1997), the first two, and still the best, in the series. Also, too often the dialogue reads less like talking than like characters staking out an editorial position.
There’s a stroke of inspiration in imagining how easily the murderous impulses of online trolls might be unleashed, but neither that premise nor the duo who’ve won fans to the series are well-served by this entry.