Watching from the Dark - Gytha Lodge

So imagine this. You’re on the computer late one night, waiting for your girlfriend to appear on your Skype feed. You can see her empty living room & it sounds like she’s in the bath. Suddenly, in the corner of the screen, you see the edge of her front door slowly open. Soft foot steps echo down the hallway. The next thing you hear is the sound of splashing water. Minutes later, you watch in horror as the front door quietly closes. Silence.

 

Aidan Poole doesn’t have to imagine it. He’s left staring at the screen, terrified by what he just witnessed. Clearly Zoe needs help ASAP. So then why is he strangely reluctant to call 999?

 

 

Now THAT’s how it’s done, folks. If this prologue doesn’t grab you, you’re…ungrabbable. Or possibly in a coma. If you read “She Lies in Wait”, you’ll be familiar with the returning cast.

 

DCI Jonah Sheens is back & as the story begins he receives a weird message at the Hampshire Constabulary: some guy called about some girl somewhere in the area who might be in trouble. Or dead. Huh? After consulting the records (and Google) he finally comes up with a name & address. A quick visit confirms that yes, Zoe Swardadine is in fact very dead. Time to gather the team.

 

Domnall O’Malley, Juliette Hanson & Ben Lightman make up his close knit squad & they waste no time assembling a list of Zoe’s nearest & dearest. Let’s see….there’s Aidan, the boyfriend with everything to lose. Angeline is a close friend who clearly has some issues. Maeve is her former room mate with a complicated love life. Victor is the co-worker who quietly carried a torch for her. And then there’s Felix, the older man who was her landlord.

 

What follows is a layered story full of people with something to hide. The challenge for the squad is figuring out which of their secrets are related to the murder. As little snippets of information surface, each of the people in Zoe’s life will top the list of suspects at one time or another.

 

Alternating with the present day investigation are chapters that begin 20 months before her death. Here we get the history of how Zoe & Aidan met & the complex relationships between the gang. As these progress, they begin to inform the present & change how you view each of the characters. You’ll find yourself giving one of them the side-eye & thinking Aha!. Then you read the next chapter & suddenly someone else becomes your prime suspect.

 

This is not an action packed, shoot-em-up kind of procedural. It’s a twisty psychological suspense story that touches on the darker sides of human nature such as obsession, jealousy, deception & the damage people do to each other. The middle section showcases the grunt work cops endure that makes or breaks a case. It’s also where they (and the reader) pick up the clues that ultimately point them in the direction of Zoe’s killer.

 

By the end of book #1, I knew the regulars were characters I wanted to meet again so I really enjoyed this. It’s a pleasure to come across a police force portrayed in a way that avoids the usual tropes of office politics & backstabbing. Instead you have distinct characters who actually get along & each brings something different to the table. Domnall is the elder statesman of the squad with a dry wit. Juliette is smart, keen & there are hints of a developing subplot concerning her past. Ben is a quiet guy who is bit of an enigma. And holding them all together is Jonah. He’s a likeable man who’s only really comfortable when he’s on the job. As for his personal life…well, that needs a little work.

 

All in all, a creepy & intricate story with an ending that may surprise many readers. Job done.