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Saturday, 27 May 2017

‘Day of the Dead’ by Mark Roberts

Published by Head of Zeus,
4 May 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-78408296-9 (HB)

DCI Eve Clay is hunting a murderer. No surprise there; in the first two titles in Mark Roberts's well-regarded Red River City series, Eve has already established herself as a renowned detective whose relentless pursuit of justice has put away several high-profile serial killers.

Third time around, though, it's a little different. This time the killer is rather more popular with the general public than the police are, because the victims he is hunting down are paedophiles. But to Eve Clay and her dauntless team, a murderer is still a murderer, and their investigation is as meticulous and inexorable as ever. The Day of the Dead follows the progress of that investigation almost minute by minute. The team are so determined to bring the culprit in that no one sleeps for more than forty-eight hours, and the various stages and breakthroughs are charted in the kind of detail I'm tempted to describe as forensic.

The murders – there are three – appear to be the work of Justin Truman, AKA Vindici, who became a media hero when he was put away some time earlier for murdering multiple paedophiles. Truman has escaped from prison, but it soon becomes apparent that he was elsewhere when these crimes took place, and a copycat is at work. This makes the job harder, but Eve Clay's team remain undeterred, even when it emerges that someone close to them is leaking information.

Eve's troubled childhood in care has played a small part in each of the two previous titles; this time it becomes more prominent as the case triggers memories, both pleasant and thoroughly unwanted.

Once again, Mark Roberts builds a cast of sharply-drawn characters, this time around focusing more on the bad guys than the team of detectives; and the victims are no less bad than their tormentor. The two main suspects are larger than life, and there's plenty of tension as the detectives dig and delve for proof of their guilt or innocence.

Roberts's research is as meticulous as the investigation; not only does Liverpool come to vivid and subtle life, there's also the annual Mexican festival to which the book's title refers, details of which serve as useful clues as well as background. Add in a generous dollop of the macabre, something of a trademark of this series, and the result is a horrifying but gripping novel which it might be best to read with all the lights on. Liverpool may never seem quite the same again.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Mark Roberts was born and raised in Liverpool and was educated at St. Francis Xavier's College. He was a teacher for twenty years and for the last ten years has worked as a special school teacher. He received a Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for best new play of the year. The Sixth Soul was his first novel for adults.

 Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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