Hunted - Paul Finch

Book #5 in the DS Mark "Heck" Heckenburg series opens with a scene that is the stuff of nightmares. Those suffering from arachnophobia may want to have a sedative on hand. 

It's just the first in a string of bizarre "accidents" that eventually end up on Heck's desk after he is seconded to the Surrey police station at the request of boss Gemma Piper. He is partnered with DC Gail Honeyford, a prickly & ambitious cop who'd prefer to solve it alone & not share any credit with the bigwig from Serious Crimes Unit. She's working on the case of a wealthy businessman who died in a fiery car crash & when Heck suggests it's linked to several deaths ruled as accidental, she thinks he's lost his mind. 

Heck is fresh off an investigation in Nottingham. He & the team finally nabbed the "Ladykiller, a violent & unbalanced young man who robbed, raped & murdered 5 elderly women. They got their conviction but in the process, Heck acquired a new enemy & it's one who will come back to haunt him.

 

The bulk of the book is taken up by the painstaking & complex investigation into weird & seemingly unconnected deaths. Heck & Gail cover a lot of ground in the search for a common denominator between the victims, eventually ending up in the gang ruled slums of London. To ensure their plates are full, they also have to deal with Gail's icky ex-boyfriend & the reappearance of a thug with ties to the Nottingham case.

As usual, Finch has constructed a story that is fast paced & intricately plotted. The twisted methods by which his victims meet their end makes me think his mind must be a scary place to live. If you're already a fan, you'll appreciate the appearance of several characters familiar from previous books. New ones run the gamut from other cops to sinister gang-bangers.

But everything revolves around Heck, the physical & emotional centre of the story. He's such a likeable guy, sort of a british cross between Reacher & Lucas Davenport. A little older, a little more battle worn, he may not have his personal life figured out but you never doubt his ability or dedication to the job. He's smart & has the instincts of a bloodhound. He's also a giant shit magnet, something Gail comes to appreciate as he drags her through barroom brawls & the mother of all car chases. How this guy still has all 4 limbs attached is beyond me. The author has a tendency to put him in solo situations no sane person would enter without a SWAT team but it's an effective plot device that usually ups the tension & moves the story along. 

It's a thinking man's thriller with enough red herrings & twists to keep you guessing. More than a few readers will be surprised when the dust settles & the "bad guy" is revealed. For fans, the added pleasure is a chance to catch up with a favourite character & see where he ends up next.

 

Included is a sneak peek at "The Burning Man" (book #6).