29 January 2017

Review: Evil Games by Angela Marsons

Evil Games (DI Kim Stone No 2)
Angela Marsons
Zaffre, 26 January 2017
PB, 381pp

I'm grateful to the publisher for a copy of the book for review. I'm also honoured to feature a guest post by Angela here tomorrow as part of the blogtour.

I loved this story.

Alex knew that she had broken this woman. She had played on her weaknesses like a violin. Not a flicker of movement or emotion was present.... 

Alex Thorne is a powerful and ruthless antagonist, not a stereotyped criminal but a manipulator, and truly intelligent, committed and pitiless person with none of the usual weaknesses that bring down villains in police stories. But... something is lacking in her:

Now, Alex's database told her the correct response for her current situation was shock. 

Kim Stone is a wounded, complex character: not the traditional detective burned out by the job and taking refuge in drink but a person with a dark, dark past and serious issues who has come to police work as a way of fighting her demons - only to be threatened by that past in ways she could never have imagined.

Together they make this book into an epic chess game, played out in conversations and interviews as the two jostle for advantage measures in gestures, verbal hesitations and influence. Between, they search frantically for information on each, anything that will yield a slight advantage.

At the same time, Kim has a distressing and frustrating enquiry on: two young girls abused, the father likely to walk because of a police mistake. A case she takes very personally indeed.

And she's also trying to cope with a murder, a new dog, and insomnia. Not necessarily in that order.

While focussing on some pretty obnoxious people I found this a believable and intriguing story. Marsons expertly shows the reader just enough, but never quite fills in the last link, so that although you broadly know what's happening it's never clear who has the upper hand or what may be going on under the surface.

The characters are also credible, in particular Stone's team who are all given their own personalities and are not just police shaped tropes. And she sets the book in a recognisable Black Country of shopping centres, flats, canals and dingy pubs. The epic duel between Stone and Thorne is all the more absorbing for taking place in such a, well, normal landscape.

It doesn't all make easy ready - some horrific things happen or are hinted at, and innocence is no defence here. And in a foreword, Marsons makes clear that a character like Alex Thorne is scarily plausible - leaving me wondering how many strangers I cross paths with might, really, be conscienceless sociopaths...

An excellent, disturbing and entertaining thriller.

I published some Q&A with Angela last year. Watch this space tomorrow for her thoughts on Dealing with Emotional Scenes!

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