The gang is back in book #4 of the DI Kim Stone series. After solving a tough case, their reward is a class trip to the local "body farm". Westerley is based on similar facilities in the US & studies forensic effects of the elements on decomposing bodies. They currently have 7 residents....uh, make that 8.
So much for a day off. When a freshly dumped body is found on the farm, Kim & her team quickly set up house & the investigation begins. They barely have time to get back to the station & identify the victim when a second woman is found near the site, still breathing. Her injuries are identical & distinctive, the handiwork of a twisted mind. We get a glimpse of just how twisted in alternate chapters narrated by the anonymous killer.
I've read this series from the start & for me, this one earns kind of a good news/bad news type of review. First, the good.
We've got a really creepy killer here who talks about their childhood in chapters that resemble letters to their mother. They start out strange & progress to disturbing as we come to realize the scale & type of abuse they suffered. The style of narration is effective & gives the reader insight into a fragmented psyche.
The returning cast feels like a real team of individuals who have been through enough to be comfortable & accepting of each other, warts & all. Bryant continues to do the heavy lifting when it comes to smoothing all the ruffled feathers Kim leaves in her wake. Rest assured she has not attended charm school since last met.
Ms. Marsons excels at creating endings that will jumpstart your pulse. This is no exception with a tense & fast paced conclusion where more than a few jaws will drop.
So....the bad. As stated, I'm a fan & part of that was initially due to Kim's character (I know a fellow snark when I see one). We've learned about her troubled childhood over the last 3 books & understand why she is so prickly & asocial. There was tremendous potential for growth but I'm beginning to get frustrated by the lack of character development. By the end of "Evil Games" (#2), there were glimpses of a woman ready to let her guard down & attempt to establish "normal" relationships.
Alas, it was just a blip. In book #3 that growth stalled & in this one I'd say she's lost ground. She is more abrupt than ever & has difficulty with the most basic social skills. I enjoy her banter with Bryant but with others, it's wearing a little thin.
This seems to conflict with her attitude toward several criminals in the story. She makes no allowances for their own horrible upbringings, believing that's no excuse for their present day crimes. Her view is she made lemonade from her past & they should have done the same. Yet her every behaviour is proof she is still held hostage by her history & is not even trying to break free.
There are also frequent walks down memory lane into her horrific childhood. This was confusing to me as it's ground covered extensively in previous books. The effect is to pull the reader out of present day events without adding anything new to the story. I understand the author wants to provide background for new readers but my view on that is hey.....that's what you get for starting with book #4 in a series.
So while I enjoyed the suspense/investigation side of the story, ultimately I'm a little disappointed. Hopefully in the next one we'll get less of Kim's past & more of her future.
I know, I know....baby steps.