25th August 2019. 4 stars.
This is a complex and complicated police procedural with shades of Hogarth, Jack the Ripper, secret societies and a police team struggling to make sense of a series of seemingly random ritualistic murders.
It’s 1971 and fast track Detective Inspector Briony Williams is thrown in at the deep end to bring her special skills to the team – namely research and referencing. Yes, life in the police was a bit different in those days. Despite Briony’s class and insights, she struggles to make an impression on her more experienced colleagues. But this doesn’t stop her following her own leads and connections as the killer appears to be toying and taunting the police.
I took to this story when I first discovered it 5 years ago, and enjoyed it just as much second time around. Though never fully developed, the characters and their relationships are strong, revealing the tensions and conflict that bubble to the surface when progress is slow and the bodies start to pile up. There’s humour, dead ends and sheer desperation at times.
Then there’s Nell, who may have witnessed The Walker’s first murder several years before. This makes her a target, creating another layer of tension and apprehension as the story unfolds and The Walker moves in for the kill.
Due to the complex nature of The Walker, a lot of pages are devoted to his history and development, including secret societies and a spell in a Californian hippy colony that slowed the pace of the story at times.
Otherwise, this is well written and researched, full of surprises and false trails and refreshingly different from your average police procedural. No detectives with major traumas, just police officers stretched to their limits as they struggle to catch a killer who’s three steps ahead.
Nell is a university student in London, desperately trying to put a traumatic episode in her past behind her.
But as a series of murders reveals a brutal, twisted killer, obsessed with Jack the Ripper, Nell recognises his mark, and realises her terrifying nightmares might just be coming true.
Determined Detective Briony Williams, also just starting out on her life in London, is part of the team tracking down The Walker.
The elusive, erudite killer is a practised anatomist with a theatrical streak, arranging his victims’ bodies in grotesque parodies of Hogarth’s engravings.
When The Walker sends a perfectly extracted eye to the police in a Tupperware container, with a defiant message, all of Briony’s (male) team believe she is in over her head, and attempt to consign her to desk work.
The killer seems to be planning a reunion with the schoolgirl who found his first victim.
These two young women see London as a place of hope and promise, but they soon discover that new times mask age-old evil in this dark psychological thriller…