Review - EENY MEENY, M.J. Arlidge
There's nothing new about a central police character as damaged as the victims they are fighting for, and in many ways DI Helen Grace is one straight out of the mould. She's driven, single-minded, single and a devoted cop and good and supportive boss. She's not a woman who is just suffering from "women's issues" - she's a cop with a hard and complicated past, dealing with it in a manner that's sad and yet somehow unsurprising. This is a women who is beating herself up on a daily basis, and still operating as a good, hard-working, dedicated cop. Who is hunting one of the most bizarre killers you'd ever come across.
Which makes this a rather spooky and confrontational plot. Definitely not one for those whose sensibilities are easily offended. There's violence, terror, the worst of human nature and the particularly frightening idea that this killer is taking 2 people and putting them in the position of making a truly frightening choice. Starkly so in the first case - where a young couple are kidnapped, confined and left with a gun and that choice - one kill the other, and the survivor goes free. Whilst further cases and victims come to hand, somehow it's that first couple - young, planning a future, and being forced into that position that remains so profoundly upsetting and shocking.
Not that the reader gets a lot of time to dwell in EENY MEENY. The pace is rapidfire and the combination of victim, crime, investigation and personal really elegantly balanced to give you even more reasons to keep reading. There is, however, enough time for the reader to identify with the victim's who "survived", and the cops chasing the killer.
A killer who is female, and capable of some astounding feats of strength to say nothing of ruthlessness. Chased by a female cop, with a couple of well developed colleagues - one female and one male. Grace's DS Mike is a cop with his own personal problems - the breakdown of his marriage means he's drinking way too much, leaving the remaining main character - fellow cop Charlie with a surprisingly normal life. Although her much longed for pregnancy makes her vulnerable at the wrong time completely.
As followers of my reviews will know I'm a bit over spending heaps of time in the head of the barking mad serial killer style of books just because that's a good place to get some shock value. There's none of that feeling here. There are short segments written from the perspective of a very damaged individual, but it's not killer-porn. It's sad, sinister and revealing and it all seems to be building on the "why" (there's twists and turns that mean it's less what you think it could be by the end). There are, actually a lot of twists and turns in this plot and some elements that, frankly, made me kick myself for not seeing coming.
After finishing the book, a quick look at the author's bio indicates that M.J. Arlidge has worked in television for the past 15 years. Whilst there's nothing "script like" about EENY MEENY there is something visual about it. Uncomfortably so, because these are victims, and cops who remain with me, and I'm guessing will for quite sometime to come. It seems there is a second book in the works which will be on the read immediately list.
The girl emerged from the woods, barely alive. Her story was beyond belief. But it was true. Every dreadful word of it.
Days later, another desperate escapee is found - and a pattern is emerging. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned then faced with a terrible choice: kill or be killed.
Would you rather lose your life or lose your mind?
Detective Inspector Helen Grace has faced down her own demons on her rise to the top. As she leads the investigation to hunt down this unseen monster, she learns that it may be the survivors - living calling cards - who hold the key to the case.
And unless she succeeds, more innocents will die . . .