Although I don’t read as much contemporary crime fiction as I used to, S.J. Bolton is one author whose books I always look out for. This is the third in her Lacey Flint detective series (or the fourth if you include the novella, If Snow Hadn’t Fallen, which I haven’t read yet). After the events of the previous book, Dead Scared, Lacey has been recovering from her traumatic experiences and is still not ready to return to work. But when young boys start going missing in Lacey’s area of London and their bodies are discovered in the river a few days later drained of blood, Lacey finds herself drawn into another mystery – despite the attempts of DI Dana Tulloch to keep her out of the investigation. However, Dana’s team are making slow progress in solving the crime as whoever is committing these murders does not appear to have a motive and doesn’t seem to fit the typical profile of a serial killer.
The house next door to Lacey’s is the home of eleven-year-old Barney Roberts and his father. Being the same age as the other boys who have disappeared, Barney and his friends are following the case very closely on Facebook. As his father always seems to be working late leaving Barney at home on his own, he has plenty of time to keep up to date with the latest news on the crimes. As Lacey gets to know her young neighbour better she grows concerned for this intelligent boy who is so obsessed with the murders and who still seems to be grieving for the mother who vanished from his life seven years earlier. Can Lacey help Barney find his mother? Will the murderer be caught before he or she has time to kill again? And what is the true identity of the mysterious Peter Sweep, who always seems to be one step ahead of the police?
Bolton’s standalone novels, Awakening and Sacrifice are still my favourites (I loved the gothic elements of her earlier books), but I do like the Lacey Flint series too and Like This, For Ever is the best so far, in my opinion. I found the mystery in this one very difficult to solve – there were several times when I was convinced I knew who the murderer was, only to be proved wrong, wrong and wrong again! I was completely taken by surprise by most of the plot twists (and there are a lot of them). I should have remembered that nothing is ever as it seems in a Bolton novel and if things appear too obvious, it’s usually because they are.
Lacey herself continues to be a flawed and fascinating character and in this book she is more isolated than ever, refusing to allow anyone to get close to her – including Mark Joesbury, another recurring character, with whom she has a very turbulent relationship. In the previous two books, Now You See Me and Dead Scared, Lacey was narrating in the first person, but this story is told in the third person which I thought allowed the real Lacey Flint to be even more obscured from the reader. And with Lacey not at work and on the outside of the investigation, we spend more time getting to know the other members of the Major Investigation Team – especially Dana Tulloch, though I’ve never found Dana a very appealing character and in this book I really disliked her because of the way she was treating Lacey. I did love the character of Barney, the eleven-year-old-boy with a gift for finding everything else apart from his missing mother, and for me he was the real star of the book.
S.J. Bolton’s books can sometimes be very dark and they can sometimes be gory. I tend to avoid this type of crime fiction but am happy to make an exception for Bolton. I didn’t think the gory parts in this book were too excessive, so if you’ve coped with any of her other books you should be fine with this one. While my preference is for historical or vintage mysteries and the traditional methods of detection, it can’t be denied that modern technology opens up lots of fascinating new ways to both commit crimes and solve them. The use of social media, especially Facebook, features very strongly in the plot and we are shown how it can be of help to the police as a source of information and discussion, as well as causing problems when people decide to abuse it.
This is my favourite of the series so far but if you’re new to the Lacey books I would probably recommend starting at the beginning with Now You See Me and reading them in order so that you can get to know the characters and the relationships between them. If you do choose to start with this one, though, it shouldn’t be a problem as Bolton has taken care not to spoil too much of the previous novels. Now I just need to find time to read Blood Harvest, the other S.J. Bolton book I still haven’t read.
Please note that the US title of this book is Lost.
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review