Written by FG Cottam — British writer FG Cottam made his debut back in 2007 with his highly successful paranormal thriller, The House of Lost Souls. This novel has subsequently been published in 15 languages, and won him the Dracula Society’s Children of the Night Award, not to mention being a Times Book Group choice. Since then he’s written a further seven novels, all with a paranormal twist. This, his latest, was published at the beginning of September by our Classics in September sponsor, Bloomsbury Reader, but it is also available as an audiobook.
The book opens at a crime scene. A serial killer is on the loose and he’s been targeting London’s prostitutes, but when DCI Jane Sullivan is called to the home of the latest victim, it appears that the killer has changed tack, throwing any theories the investigating team had up in the air. The deceased, Julie Longmuir, is a well-known actress and her murder is a media nightmare in the making for a DCI who needs to make an arrest, and fast. Her body has been mutilated and the killer has written a message in ancient text on the wall, using the victim’s blood. Beyond the messages he leaves behind, there are no other clues to go on that would suggest who this man is.
To complicate matters further, the press are having a field day, whipping up fear levels with salacious headlines suggesting that the case bears uncanny similarities to the Jack the Ripper killings of the 1880s. It couldn’t be, could it? It’s not a theory that Sullivan is willing to entertain – particularly as it’s her job on the line and there appears to be a mole within the ranks, feeding the press information. Within days, the killer is ready to strike again, but this time, his intended victim escapes and suddenly the case begins to open up.
Meanwhile, high up in the Pyrenees, young priest Father Cantrell has been sent by the Vatican to visit a remote monastery inhabited by three elderly priests. The orders he brings them have the potential to unleash devastation, and they’re none too keen to comply. For centuries their order has guarded and protected humanity from a great evil that has already escaped them twice before. When Fr Cantrell is subsequently killed in an accident, it’s his cardinal who travels to France to bring his young protégé home, but the cardinal soon realises that his death is far from accidental, and he needs the monks help to recapture the prisoner they were so diligently guarding.
Back in London, Jane has joined forces with Jacob Prior, an academic who specialises in ancient texts, and Charlotte Reynard, the young mother who has narrowly escaped our killer by having a premonition just before she entered her home. As much as Jane is a facts person, she is persuaded to trust Charlotte’s instincts, and both women soon realise that there’s a specific pattern to these deaths. When he strikes again, it’s clear he still hasn’t finished and he regards Charlotte as unfinished business. Could the events in the Pyrenees be linked with what’s happening in London? Will Jane be able to stop the killer before he completes his plan?
This is one seriously well crafted read, with twists and turns aplenty. From the first page to the last it’s a book that will have you on the edge of your seat. Fans of FG Cottam’s writing will not be disappointed. It’s well plotted, and the shifts between locations move seamlessly. Even though there’s a supernatural thread running through, the killer always seems like flesh and blood, so it’s a book that has appeal for readers who don’t normally dip into the paranormal end of the genre. Well worth a read.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars