Review - POP GOES THE WEASEL, M.J. Arlidge

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The second novel in the DI Helen Grace series POP GOES THE WEASEL returns to Grace's life in the aftermath of her sister's death, and that of a much loved colleague in the first book EENY MEENY. Because the events in that first novel were so fundamental to everything that Grace is and how she behaves, this is definitely a series that would work best if you can start at the beginning, something that this reader would have highly recommended anyway.

Arlidge has taken a brave approach with the development of Helen Grace as a character. She's prickly, standoffish, often tricky to be around but there are plenty of reasons for her to be so. An impossible childhood, a dreadful outcome with her sister in the first novel, Grace could be forgiven for getting a lot of things cackhanded, and when it comes to working with other colleagues also involved in the earlier novel, then she's not exactly on high moral ground with everything. She's also got a new boss, DS Ceri Harwood and to say they don't get on is a bit of an understatement.

Despite the personal problems, and the tensions with colleagues, there's a major investigation that demands everybody's attention when a particularly vicious murder is discovered. As victim's start to pile up, in known sex or drug use haunts, eviscerated, with their hearts removed, the team is scrambling to find connections. Particularly difficult with each victim having a substantially different background, although slowly the use of online porn sites and prostitute rating forums starts to reveal itself.

The way that this author has now built a story surrounding an unexpected killer, who for all their violence and depravity, also has reasons for what they are doing in both books, is an interesting precedent. There's also a constant theme of women colleagues, friends and family and their relationships. In POP GOES THE WEASEL that examination extends to the family of the victims, particularly the first victim and a wife who struggles to admit the truth about a tyrannical husband and father.

The balance between personal and professional, angst and dedication is well done in this series. All of the characters are developing well and in some ways it's an ensemble cast, despite a lot of the focus being on Grace. The plot is fast when it needs to be, detailed and thoughtful when there are things need exploring. The balancing act between these elements is well done and makes for an engaging, yet fast paced police procedural with tension, aggravation, and that most unlikely of things - a sympathetic and very sad serial killer.

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DI Helen Grace returns in Pop Goes the Weasel, the electrifying new thriller from M. J. Arlidge.

The body of a middle-aged man is discovered in Southampton's red-light district - horrifically mutilated, with his heart removed.

Hours later - and barely cold - the heart arrives with his wife and children by courier.

A pattern emerges when another male victim is found dead and eviscerated, his heart delivered soon afterwards.

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse; revenge against the men who lead sordid double lives visiting prostitutes. For Grace, only one thing is certain: there's a vicious serial-killer at large who must be halted at all costs . . .

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