mosbySometimes, there’s a thin line between love and hate. Or at least that’s one theory for DI Zoe Dolan, tracking the Creeper – a stalker who’s been breaking into women’s homes and attacking them. But the Creeper’s violence is escalating and there’s no pattern, no clue as to how he’s getting in, and no clue as to who’s next.

Until Jane Webster gets a call to the helpline where she volunteers. It’s meant to be a confidential service and Jane is torn – it could be a hoaxer, but the soft voice at the end of the line has the ring of truth about it. He says he loves these women – but it’s a love that ends in blood.

When Jane tells the police, it should be the lead that Zoe needs – but it only pulls her further into a case that is already taking her dangerously close to the past she’s never fully escaped. For Jane, Zoe and all the other young women of the city, suddenly nowhere is safe. Particularly their own bedroom at the dead of night…

With an opening chapter that contains enough of a fright to scare even the most hardened crime reader, The Nightmare Place, is the latest offering from Steve Mosby. A stalker- The Creeper- is breaking into women’s homes and attacking them, with very little for the police to go on, and leaving little clue into how the victims are selected and who will be next…

Although not consistently exhibiting the usual deep-seated and unflinching focus on the human psyche so readily displayed in Mosby’s previous book, The Dark Room (which now ranks among my favourite crime reads of all time) there is still plenty to entertain and perplex the reader. With a feisty and solidly characterised female detective protagonist, DI Zoe Dolan, Mosby has constructed a tense and chilling crime thriller that unfailingly captures the fear and suspicion wrought by a killer at large and the failing of the police to bring him to justice. In a nifty subplot, the killer, exhibiting his twisted mentality, makes contact with a local helpline, and there is an interesting exploration of the bounds of confidentiality in such a scenario. As Mosby ramps up the tension through the escalating behaviour of The Creeper, suspects come and go, and annoyingly I had my eye on one guy as the bad guy and I was right. A total creep in all senses of the word!

The central investigation folds out satisfyingly, but by the same token not really stretching the boundaries of the serial killer thriller genre per se. The real strength of the piece lies in Mosby’s innate handling of characterisation and DI Dolan is a case in point. During her interaction with her now retired boss John Carlton, who has exerted a great influence on both her personal and professional life, the reader gets a real insight into her journey from an unsettled adolescence to her current career. From a fledgling propensity for bad behaviour and her upbringing on the wrong side of the tracks, her relationship with Carlton has proved a hugely significant influence in her life, and I loved the shift in narrative throughout the book that captured the importance of this relationship and the pathos-filled depiction of the potential loss of this friendship. This is where Mosby excels, delving deeper into the finer and more emotional aspects of the human condition, and aside from a very touching interlude focusing on another character’s short-lived harmonic relationship with an aspect of the natural world, Dolan is the main conduit for this authorial skill. As I said, the main plot was intriguing enough, but these little vignettes of human experience really lift the piece from the realms of a bog-standard police procedural.

As a firm fan of Mosby, I did detect a little dip in quality from his usual fare, but not enough to seriously impact on me recommending this as a good read. With little glimpses of the more thoughtful and introspective qualities readily apparent in his previous books, and a plot that creeped me out almost as much as the TV crime drama, The Fall, The Nightmare Place, ticked most of the boxes overall. A crime thriller that will leave you suspicious of your bedroom and who may be lurking uninvited within…

Steve Mosby lives and works in Leeds. He is the author of THE THIRD PERSON, THE CUTTING CREW, THE 50/50 KILLER, CRY FOR HELP, STILL BLEEDING, BLACK FLOWERS and THE DARK ROOM . His novels have been translated widely and longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year Award. Find out more at: www.theleftroom.co.uk. Follow on Twitter @stevemosby

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

 

Advertisements