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Bolton, S J - 'Now You See Me'
Hardback: 432 pages (May 2011) Publisher: Bantam Press ISBN: 0593064135

At the heart of this novel is a series of murders in London apparently based on those of Jack the Ripper. But who is committing the murders and why? The story centres around DC Lacey Flint who stumbles across a dying woman after she leaves a block of flats on a routine visit to talk to potential witnesses. The woman's throat and abdomen has been slit open with a knife and Lacey can do nothing to save her. DIs Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury are assigned to the case, but Lacey is unable to tell them very much. Moreover, there is no ID on the dead woman, and no way of establishing whom she was.

Lacey is a strong, independent character. She lives on her own in a flat on Wandsworth road, has no partner, and chooses to indulge in casual sexual encounters, by meeting potential men at Camden market. She has apparently joined the police as a result of an early fascination with serial killers, and works in a unit in Southwark that deals with the gang rape of young girls. Tulloch decides to temporarily transfer her to Lewisham Police station where the investigation into the murder is based, so she and Mark can keep an eye on her, and she is allowed to help out with the investigation. Joesbury is suspicious of Lacey, as the first person on the scene could be the perpetrator, and it's clear that Lacey is a bit of an odd person, with a mysterious past that she is very secretive about.

Eventually, CCTV allows the police to find the Lexus that the murdered woman was driving, and they discover that the murdered woman is Geraldine Jones. Unfortunately, discovering the woman's identity still doesn't help to explain why and where she was killed.

Then reporter Emma Booth contacts Lacey and shows her a letter she's been sent, with neat handwriting and in red ink, which contains the phrase 'I keep on hearing Saucy Jack is back'. Lacey immediately recognises its similarity to letters purportedly from Jack the Ripper, who had the nickname 'Saucy Jack'. Is the letter real or a hoax? After thinking about it overnight, she decides to tell Tullock and Joesbury about the letter, and as she explains that Geraldine has been killed on the same day, and in the same way as the first official victim of the ripper, Polly Nichols, they begin to worry this could be the first in a series of 'copycat' murders. In confirmation of their suspicions, Joesbury tells Lacey that the knife used to kill Geraldine had five letters etched into it; 'Polly'.

If the murderer is following the same pattern as the Ripper, then the police suspect that the next murder will take place on Friday 7 September, but they have no idea who the victim will be, or where she will be killed. A lead directs them to a man called Samuel Cooper. Is he the Ripper? Can they catch him in time to prevent another murder? Or is this just a set-up, and another false lead to distract them away from the real culprit?

All the way through the novel, it is clear that there is a link between the murderer and Lacey. A sequence of interspersed chapters, gradually reveal a connection that involves an incident in which two young girls were gang-raped some years ago. The author keeps us guessing as to whether Lacey was one of them or not, and whether the murders are some kind of revenge killing. There is an interesting interplay between Joesbury and Lacey, in which Joesbury's behaviour appears to swing from almost sadistic behaviour in one moment to overly protective in the next, as he struggles with his attraction for Lacey against his mistrust of her, and his suspicion of her potential involvement in the crimes. The story is rich in plot twists that catch the reader out and cleverly builds to a tense climactic ending set in the Camden catacombs as Joesbury and Lacey search for the last victim, who may still be alive. The link with the original Ripper murders is used to effect, and I greatly enjoyed this mature, masterful story-telling from S J Bolton.

Michelle Peckham, England
May 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/05/2011 13:44