Review - FOLLOW THE LEADER, Mel Sherratt
The second book in the DS Allie Shenton series, FOLLOW THE LEADER is not impeded in any way by not having read the earlier novel.
Whilst many fans of crime fiction will take one look at the blurb and groan "not another serial killer", this one deserves a second look. This serial killer kind of makes sense - in a decidedly uncomfortable manner.
In another possibly groan inducing moment, readers will also find themselves spending time in the head of this killer. A viewpoint that's used here to illuminate the killings, their circumstances, and more importantly, the motivation. Even the hardest heart is going to find it hard not to feel a modicum of compassion for this killer - even if his actions are utterly without justification.
Whilst you're squirming a little feeling that sense of compassion, you're presented with a number of other well drawn characters that might be more comfortable for you - sympathetic or not. DS Shenton and her colleagues, many of whom have some school connections with these victims, through to the self-obsessed, pain in the neck live in girlfriend of another school friend, these people feel real. They are flawed, they have personal and professional lives, and they have problems and highlights that they have to balance with the day to day.
Whilst the plot and the killings progress rapidly, obviously heading on a timeline firmly in the killer's mind, there is some backwards timeline shifting going on - especially in the killer's viewpoint - all of which is handled well. There's also school-yard nicknames, married names, changed names to keep track of and the connections from the past and present, which sounds like a lot. Fortunately any chance of confusion is minimised as some of the characters reiterate the confusing aspects, sort it through in their minds, helping the reader to do the same. And the idea of all those connections coming into life in a place as small as Stoke on Trent (in comparison to a major city small) made perfect sense.
Having a strong, central female cop protagonist with a happy, but not nauseatingly perfect home life is a particularly nice change, although there's obviously something from the earlier book that's leaked forward into this one. Shenton's sister is the victim of a vicious rape and assault which has left her in a nursing home, and desperately unwell. That idea that Shenton's life isn't picture postcard perfect or an absolute train wreck is both well done and refreshing, as are the honest occasional flashes of annoyance or difficulty in dealing with her sister's health situation. There's something more to be done in this thread as a very personal threat to Shenton appears in the middle of the current investigation (possibly the only clanger in the whole book as the obvious intent of that rape and attack seemed to muddle the current investigation waters for no good reason).
It looks very much like FOLLOW THE LEADER is heading off into series territory and it shows considerable promise in that. Certainly enough to put the first book firmly on my reading list. Nothing like being prepared when book 3 surfaces.
A man’s body is found on a canal towpath. In his pocket, a plastic magnet in the shape of an E.
Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing.
As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert.
The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next.
The rules are simple but deadly—to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.