This is a creepy thriller that alternates between 2 time lines that link disturbing events in the present to a horrific chapter from the past.
In the present, DCI Tiff Rowlinson attends a gruesome scene in an isolated cabin in south Wales. So he’s more than a little surprised when British attorney general Sir Philip Wren arrives unannounced with a team from the Met. Wren doesn’t say much but 2 things are immediately clear. He is deeply unsettled by what he’s seen & has no intention of allowing Rowlinson to investigate.
In 1946 Col. Albert Ruck is tucked away in a remote english farmhouse with a handful of staff. His mission is simple: make his “guest” talk. In the messy clean-up following the war, he was charged with snatching Dr. Kurt Schneider from Buchenwald concentration camp. The good doctor is infamous for the experiments he carried out, specializing in modified poisons. Now he spends his days being interrogated in a barn & Ruck has some very specific questions.
Charlie Priest retired from the Met 10 years ago & became a lawyer. Now he heads up an exclusive firm with 3 carefully chosen associates. Vincent Okoro is a large, intimidating man with a brilliant legal mind. Simon Solomon is a geeky forensic accountant afflicted with a variety of ticks & zero social skills. Georgie Someday is the new girl, a tireless researcher & sharp as a tack. After Charlie is attacked in his home one night, all 4 of them will be affected by the disturbing events that follow.
That’s it for the plot, folks. The less you know going in, the better. But I’ll pass on some advice. Practice cringing……a lot. Oh, and if you ever get a letter with something lumpy inside? Maybe leave town.
Charlie gets caught up in the search for a killer & soon realizes that he himself has multiple connections to whatever the hell is going on. Former colleagues, missing women and something else…..the pervasive sense of something evil that has existed for decades. Tension builds with every discovery & as new characters are introduced, some of them will make you nervous. They’re a little blurry around the edges & you can’t help but question their motives. All you know for sure is there are people who will do anything to keep a secret safely hidden.
The plot is complex & the historical story line is just as compelling as the one set in present day. At about the 80% mark, I felt like I needed to take a deep breath before turning each page. There’s a whole herd of twists & each new piece of info sends you haring off after a fresh suspect. It’s a thriller with a capital T but what bumped it up to 4 stars for me was the main character.
Charlie is an interesting guy. He lives alone & tends to avoid social situations that require normal behaviour. Because even when he’s physically present, Charlie may not really be there. He has dissociative disorder & it’s a rather sneaky affliction. He can be in the middle of a conversation when an episode hits & suddenly he’s outside himself, watching as he flounders for something to say. At other times he may not recognize his own hand as belonging to his body. His memory of what occurred becomes spotty & time has an elastic quality. There’s a very good reason that he sometimes worries about his sanity but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.
Just a heads up. There is some gruesome content so if you’re a fan of cozies, step away from the book now. Actually, run. Personally, I think I’m going to hang around & see what Charlie gets up to in book #2.