Kate Rhodes injects her thriller with menace from the first page in a blend of personal demons and serial murders, with London psychologist Alice Quentin in the crosshairs. The psychologist on call at the hospital to accompany police on request, Alice accompanies hulking Detective Investigator Don Burns to the prison interview of soon-to-be-released murderer Morris Cley. Unfortunately, Quentin closely resembles Cley's victim, a fact that stirs appropriate anxiety in the psychologist. Cley exhibits more than appropriate interest in her.
Albeit carefully hidden behind a professional facade, Alice has her own demons, the detritus of a traumatic childhood, a busy practice keeping her occupied, along with a series of casual romances, commitment a word that is anathema to Alice's vocabulary. When overwhelmed by either physical or emotional claustrophobia, Alice runs at any time day or night, exorcising pressure by pounding the streets of London to the point of exhaustion. The discomfort experienced when meeting Cley, even with DI Burns present, is exacerbated when Alice stumbles over the mutilated body of a woman on at late-night run through Crossbones Yard, the infamous burial site of thousands of unfortunate prostitutes.
When yet another female victim, similarly cut, is found soon after Alice's discovery, the police suspect a serial killer. Cley is prime suspect because of the damage to the victims and his close association with a husband-and-wife murder team, Ray and Marie Benson. Though only Marie still survives and remains under heavy guard, Burns requests that Quentin accompany him to interview Marie, hopeful that she will reveal the location of the killers' last five victims—a long shot at best. Though nearly blind, Marie remains sly and manipulative, suggesting she might be willing to trade information with Alice while subtly intimating that the psychologist might have links to the recent killings that she is unaware of.
With a sense of unnamable terror, Alice bursts from her flat running, her compulsion ratcheting up the tenor of the thriller as random threats are unleashed. Unable to endure confinement, Alice speeds willfully through unsafe streets, ignoring the anonymous letters she's been receiving that suggest she is a part of this macabre series of murders, perhaps even a target herself. Rhodes never lets up the pace, each day adding another measure of fear to a life already fraught with nightmares, a woman on the edge, afraid to trust anyone but herself.
The supporting characters only add to the pervasive sense of menace: Alice's homeless bipolar brother, addicted to street drugs, sometimes found huddled beneath a sleeping bag, his van parked in her parking spot; a violent father who terrorized her throughout her childhood; a mother steeped in hypocrisy and denial; the massive Burns, bent beneath the weight of the heinous unsolved killings; and an ambivalent, sometimes adversarial relationship with Detective Sergeant Ben Alvarez, the handsome but enigmatic officer who both confuses and interests her. The only bright spot is Quentin's best friend, Lola, an aspiring actress currently staying in the flat while enjoying an energetic affair with a new man.
It is this skillful combination of real threat and the murky emotional terrain of Alice's psyche that gives this novel its appeal, menace drawing closer to frightened quarry. Alice runs from herself but likely into the arms of danger, all she holds dear at risk and her terror of confinement about to become a reality. Absolutely unputdownable.