The Murder Club, Nikki Crutchley
Miller Hatcher made her debut as a character in NOTHING BAD HAPPENS HERE. In my review of that book I noted that she was "a flawed character, frequently almost pathetic, but there's enough in her back story, and the way her problems presented to make her understandable, if not completely sympathetic, and as a result absolutely real". In this second novel, THE MURDER CLUB, she's more stable, together, and focused, and taking some responsibility for her life and her mistakes. And still absolutely real. So real, that the fear she feels over the death of women who live alone, and her anger about those deaths, being compounded by the killer obviously knowing where she lives (he's delivering letters to explain his actions direct to her door), is palpable. And understandable.
This author has a particular expertise in character creation. She's not afraid to make some people tricky, complicated and very flawed at times. As with the earlier novel Hatcher is an investigative journalist, known for her work on other crime stories, with a good friend in the police force, Kahu Parata, who is again part of the investigation into the inexplicable killing of women in a small town setting. Everyone knows the victims, and more soberingly, everyone must know the killer. Meanwhile Cassie Hughes is a troubled young woman, whose own mother was murdered years ago. She's vowed to find that killer, identified by a possible name only, and Miller has agreed to use her role as a journalist on the local paper to bring the cold case some much needed attention and focus.
All the while there's an odd bloke in town, son of a local "identity" family, whose own sister was murdered many years ago, leaving him obsessed with True Crime in a most peculiar manner.
Whilst it absolutely never hurts to read a series in order (and NOTHING BAD HAPPENS HERE is very readable), there is backstory to Hatcher in this one, plenty of hark backs to the past, and enough of the ongoing fallout to give readers a pretty good feeling for who she is, and what she's dealing with. The past and present relationships are well catered for, the tensions in the small town, and in the newsroom described perfectly, and there are more than enough potential suspects, weird goings on, and nasty types lurking around to keep you thinking you've nailed the perpetrator, but then again maybe not, for most of the novel.
The letters from the killer to Hatcher aren't too "in the mind of the serial killer" in styling, and this is very much a novel about the damage done in childhood and the outward ordinariness of evil. The ultimate resolution of who the "Scarf Killer" is and why is heartbreaking on one level and horrible on another.
This is one of those series that fans of good, character based, crime fiction should take note of.
A dead body. An anonymous letter. This is only the beginning.
‘Not all evil, on the surface, is ugly and menacing. It doesn’t always lurk in city centres after dark. It mows your lawns, frequents your local pub, takes its kids to school and contributes to communities.’
When the first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck.
Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye.
Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours.
The lives of Miller, Cassie and Logan – all affected differently by murder – become entwined as The Scarf Killer, desperate for infamy, and Miller’s attention, makes his mark on the small town of Lentford.