Stalkers by Paul Finch (4 out of 5)
I found out about this book and Paul Finch via Goodreads. These are just now being released in the United States, this is the first in a series of books with DS Heckenburg, who I guaranteed will be on your characters TBW (to be watched, I just made it up. Steal my copyright and I’ll club you like a soda) list. Not sure why, but the entire time I was reading this, I was thinking if they ever cast it as a movie or television show, Adam Baldwin of Firefly fame would be a great Heckenburg. Or if they are going with a younger age, then perhaps JGL. If you get to the end and expect a smooth resolution, well, this is not a book you can expect that from. It’s pretty obvious from page one that this isn’t a normal suspense novel, meaning it’s like a “Nordic Noir” and there is no end to the violence, bloodshed, death, and adult situations. Language is a big four letter word throughout the book, so if you’re a Harlequin romance reader, stay the hell away from this one. You will not walk away unoffended. Overall, I loved this first book in the DS Heckenburg series and cannot wait for the next (Sacrifice, February, 2015) installment.
Our book begins with Louise Jennings, an attractive young lady, leaving work. She believes she’s being followed, but manages to get to her car and drive most of the way home, but almost there, has a freaky car accident. When she goes to get back in her car, her tires are shredded and there’s a mysterious man in the passenger seat who knocks her out cold and drives off with her in the trunk of another car. We see Louise again, but the next scene that plays out is not a pretty one and quickly sets the tone for what’s about to follow. DS Heckenburg (Heck for short) has been investigating for years now “cold cases” of missing young women, thought to be a serial killer. Except that it doesn’t fit the normal MO of a serial killer; the women who are missing are all well-to-do, intelligent women who have absolutely nothing weird going on that would send up a distress flare over their disappearances. No bodies are found, no trace evidence to be found, and it’s a dead end. Heck’s superiors are tired of no new leads and no progress on the old ones; the lack of a concrete lead is taking its toll on him and he’s not only wasting away, but smarting off to the lead investigator of the department doesn’t do him any favors. Gemma, his ex and co-worker, breaks it to him that he’s “off the case” and on holiday, and the case is on hold indefinitely. Heck doesn’t go quietly, nor does he go, continuing to investigate on his own. He finds a couple of leads and ends up at a pub, where he meets a young lady, Lauren, to whom he’s instantly drawn, and who after he turns her down, follows him when he’s on a fact finding mission and breaks it to him that she’s been following him and knows he’s investigating the case and her sister is among the missing. Heck finds himself with a new partner that he didn’t ask for, but before long, he realizes he and Lauren make a good team, and they finally start to make headway. Heck also realizes that the people behind the missing girls are a well connected, super intelligent and well funded group of militants who are also operating in other countries as well. The leads lead to bodies, and Heck and Lauren find themselves framed for a number of them, and end up on the run. This all leads to the last 50 pages of the book being nonstop action, when the “Nice Guys Club” (the group behind the disappearance of the thirty women) come out in full force when Heck and Lauren get the breaks they need, and the final confrontation is fierce, bloody, stunning, and the ending? Well, I had hoped for a bit more of a resolution than is ultimately delivered in the end, but I am counting on the 2nd book in the series delivering a stealth ninja kick to tie it up a bit more.
Overall, not a complaint coming from me, except for the way it ends. However, as I said, I believe that Finch set the ending up to lead into what will no doubt be a riveting follow up to this enthralling, gory, and stunning debut. And I, for one, cannot wait.