I do really enjoy a good thrilling murder, in the fictional sense of course, and yet for some reason I never read enough of them. I think it is because I really enjoy them and so I treat them as a, erm, treat. This is not to be confused with a guilty pleasure. I am known for liking some rather cosy crime series but I am also partial to a dark tale of serial killers or something with a deep brooding psychological menace about it. That is why I wanted to read ‘Now You See Me’ by S.J. Bolton as part of The Readers Summer Book Club, that and the fact it had a Jack the Ripper element (which I have always found fascinating because of the enigma), oh and the fact that it was said to be a bit grisly and Gavin tends to shy away from those kind of crime novels. I am thrilled (see what I did there) that we did read it as, even though its only my first book with S.J. Bolton, I may have found a new favourite crime author at the start of a possible future favourite crime series.
On the streets of London it appears someone has decided, on the 120th anniversary of his very first killing, copy the method of murders for which Jack the Ripper became so renowned. Detective Constable Lacey Flint happens upon the final moments of the first victim whilst working on a completely different case. Yet as the murders progress it becomes clear that Lacey Flint has caught the killers eye and so soon she finds herself embroiled in her first murder case but is she a suspect, accomplice or victim?
From that premise, which I have done in the usual crime blurb style, you know what you are getting as you start to read ‘Now You See Me’, or do you? One of the things that I loved the most about this book was the fact that I have to hold my hands up and say that I had no idea who the killer was, then when on a random moment I thought I did S.J. Bolton would pull the rug out from under me with a twist I couldn’t see coming. Yet for me this book is also much more than just your average serial killer book.
The first thing that really stands out, and sets ‘Now You See Me’ apart from many of its contemporaries is its narrator Lacey Flint. From the get go you are completely unsure about her. The fact that she finds the first victim in a rather gruesome and shocking way (the book can be a little gory, but with a Jack the Ripper copycat killer what would you expect) we feel a mixture of sympathy and suspicion for her, as does another of the main characters DI Joesbury, who also rather fancies her. Lacey is one of the most flawed characters I have met in a while and not in your stereotypical ‘alcoholic member of the police’ kind of way, it is much deeper than that and all lies in her past but you need to read the book to find out more.
The other element I really liked was the atmosphere. London in the present is a really dark presence in the book and shades that Bolton uses to recreate the Victorian London that Jack frequented are brought through to the presence, the Thames in particular comes across as a real murky vein running through the heart of an unsettled town, yet you can also tell Bolton loves the city too, it’s very deftly done. I also loved the Ripper elements both in the past (which showed some great reserach but never showed off, and a whole new theory on the Ripper I had never heard before) and the copycat in the present, am I allowed to say that reading murderers who have so much relish was weirdly entertaining? Is that the police knocking at my door, oh dear!
It is hard to say too much about ‘Now You See Me’ without spoilers or sounding too sycophantic. It is really a book of layers, you have the layers of the atmosphere of London (though the book does travel to Cardiff), the multiple facets and layers of the characters from the killer to Lacey and all the cops in between and also it is a book which has more than just a layer of murder, you get to know the victims and those affected by the horrific events that unfold you also get to look at some of the social issues affecting our times. ‘Now You See Me’ is a page turning thriller which carries a lot of additional twists, turns, emotions and punch to its contemporaries. I will be reading much more of S.J. Bolton’s books, if you haven’t started them then I suggest you do with this one. Clichéd as it sounds you will be utterly gripped, my thriller of the year so far.
Have you read this book or any other books by S.J Bolton? What is your thriller of the year so far? Do you have a favourite crime series that I might be missing out on?
I read this book for The Readers Summer Book Club, if you would like to hear the author discussing the book you can on this week’s episode of The Readers Summer Book Club here.