Like This, For Ever by S J Bolton
|Like This, For Ever by S J Bolton|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: More pyschological crime in the heart of London. Missing boys, a detective barely holding it together, a few disconcerting case notes from the psychiatrist's chair and just a touch of vampirism in keeping with the times - just nasty enough to stay believable and readable. Flint is on the case again, even though she's not technically fit for work. Good stuff!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 391||Date: April 2013|
|Publisher: Bantam Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Back in January, Lacey Flint very nearly threw herself off a tower. Now it's February and she is on extended leave and talking to a counsellor. Whether she is trying to convince the psyche-doctor that she is fit for work or that she isn't, isn't entirely clear. Maybe it's not clear to Flint either.
Either way, in the opening passage, it's hard to avoid the feeling that , just maybe, she's playing games, going through the motions.
Something happened to Bolton's character a long time ago. Something that might have kept her from ever becoming a police officer. Something that maybe also was the very reason why she did.
I don't know what that something was. I'm not sure whether it is revealed in the earlier books because I haven't read them. I only came in to this story with Dead Scared. Coming in at this point, I do kind of hope that the real-world-psyche evaluators are a bit better at their jobs. Flint is a great detective, but a lousy copper. She doesn't take orders and she takes to many risks. Which, of course, is precisely what makes her a great detective AND a lousy copper.
For now that shouldn't matter. She is on extended leave.
Barney is a pretty ordinary kid. A bright kid… although he does 'lose' time on occasions. He has blackouts where he can't remember what he was doing. The rest of the time, he's smart, popular, has great mates, is utterly reliable in doing in his newspaper round, skates like a demon. He also has a natural ability to find things that have been lost. He sees patterns that other people can't see. In doing that, he can see the discrepancy.
He lives with his Dad. His Mam went away when he was really small.
He has a thing about order and tidiness. Mess bothers him.
He just happens to be Flint's next door neighbour.
Twin boys are found on the mud banks of the Thames. They lay curled on their sides, spooned together…as though they were about to twitch and stretch. They didn't look dead. But of course they are.
Not just dead, but drained of all their blood.
And they're not the first. Four boys in two months and another one still missing.
D.I. Dana Tulloch is the lead officer and, of course, after the Ripper case, she will want Mark Joesbury involved. Joesbury will want Flint… but Flint is away, and she is not ready to come back, certainly not ready to face something like this.
Yet she stands in the shadows and watches the neighbourhood kids playing out at night, unafraid. She knows better than they that they should be very afraid. But she can't get involved… can she?
Bolton has found a winning formula and for now at least is sticking with it. The psychological thriller is alive and well, and in good hands.
Genre fiction gets a fairly shabby press, but it doesn't stop the readers. We like to be scared, unnerved, played with. We enjoy the puzzle elements of traditional crime-and-detection even more when there's a frisson of reality, of plausibility about what's happening. That's why these novels need to happen in places we know. If we know the geography, so much the better, but that isn't essential, what does matter that those who DO know the geography can believe in it. Unlike some authors, Bolton doesn't belabour her street names, except where they genuinely matter to the plot. Otherwise, we get general areas that will give us the feel of the place, and we're left to work the rest out for ourselves.
I don't know London well enough to know how accurate she is. I do know it well enough to know how plausible it is. And many of the details are plausible enough for any big town, spooky enough to have me checking the doors were locked.
Her lead protagonist gives me some problems. I like Flint. I wouldn't in real life, but as a character she does a great job. I'm just not sure how long the back story and the psychological fault-lines can be sustained before she becomes too much of a parody to be believable. She may have to go freelance at some stage.
Perhaps that's what this book is building up to. If she stays on the force will she be continued to be allowed visits to Durham, to talk to her serial killer?
For this book though, she's on form. Slightly flaky. Seriously traumatised. But still looking out for those unable to look out for themselves.
The kids start investigating themselves. There's stuff on the news. It's all over Facebook.
And kids are still going missing.
Crime fiction is rarely credited with being 'literary'. Often rightly so, since it relies on plot rather than the subtleties and beauties of language, but there are exceptions. You don't need me to name the masters of the art. Bolton might not be quite up there with the greats, but she has her moments. Time moved differently in here, she'd noticed. Or rather it misbehaved. It skidded, dragged its heels, sprinted forward and doubled back, catching itself on loose nails and grinding to sudden and unpredictable halts. It was as though the laws governing real time didn't quite make it through prison security.
Plot-wise Like This Forever is what you'd expect. A tale twisting along the river banks, littered with clues and red herrings, and suspects a-plenty. The end result won't be a complete surprise, if you're paying attention – but for my money, it shouldn't be. The puzzle is part of the point, and the puzzle doesn't have any point if it can't be solved.
But the guilty party is unlikely to be the only suspect you've still got in the frame right to the end. That's crime-writing craftsmanship.
As the author says: Keep telling yourself it's only fiction…
The TV series is only a matter of time.
If you've enjoyed this and it's your first outing into Bolton territory, it'd be fun catching up on the back-catalogue... and of course the current master of the art from the other side of the channel in Harlan Coben.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.