Years ago, pre-blogging, I'd read "The Devil of Nanking" by Mo Hayder. It was an incredible, horrifying novel! Once I entered the blogging world, I continued to hear about Mo Hayder's work, but I never picked it up again until now. What I didn't fully appreciate was that this book, which drew me in by its cover (how totally creepy is it??? Gah!), was actually #6 in a series featuring a Bristol UK detective inspector Jack Caffery. I used to be religious about not stepping into a series mid-stream, but...whatever. I wanted to read this book dammit, so I did.
Synopsis: The patients and some of the staff of Beechway psychiatric hospital are living in terror. Some have seen the spirit called The Maude lurking the hallways, coming into rooms and sitting on patients' chests. To AJ, the hospital supervisor, this is more of an annoyance than anything, and is primarily concerned with maintaining peace and order. Until a patient dies, and other patients begin harming themselves. AJ decides to call the police...enter Jack Caffery.
Coincidentally, a patient named Isaac was just released from this hospital to a halfway house. When Isaac was a teenager, he brutally killed his parents and is known for constructing poppets (small dolls) that have a very strange smell. And Caffery discovers that Isaac has gone missing. Could there be a connection between Isaac and The Maude?
My thoughts: Even though we are six books deep into this series, the author did an excellent job of orientating me. Caffery WAS actually still struggling with a lingering case from a prior novel before tackling the issues at Beechway hospital, but the elements of this old case were very well-explained and I fell right into step.
The story is absolutely chilling and very dark, which is exactly how I like my thrillers. While it may seem there is something supernatural at work here, the mystery is actually grounded and realistically gritty. The primary characters were wonderful, flawed, and came to life. The mystery was something that was foreseeable, but was also layered and multi-pronged, which made my brain buzz.
In fact, this is probably one of the most compelling thriller reads I've come across in awhile. I am resigned to going back now and hitting them all...on audio if I can, and if not I will read them. I am hooked.
4.5 out of 5 stars