Dead Gone
Luca Veste
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Buy *Dead Gone* by Luca Vesteonline

Dead Gone
Luca Veste
Pegasus Books
416 pages
January 2017
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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For those who like their British crime thrillers gritty and dark, Dead Gone is the perfect read. In a tense story that unfolds in just twenty days, Veste introduces DI David Murphy, who together with his attractive young colleague DS Laura Rossi must deal with a new brand of evil, someone who has absolutely no regard for life. With Liverpool’s people, buildings, history, and its beloved River Mersey providing a colorful backdrop, Veste unspools a macabre series of bloody murders. The bearded Murphy has been hoping to let go of the demons of his past: guilt over the recent split from his wife and the sudden murder of his parents. Having grown up on the council estates of Liverpool, Murphy is hard-edged and streetwise, a characteristic not lost on rookie 23-year-old Laura Rossi. She sees in her truculent, impatient boss many of the attributes that caused her to be attracted to join the police force in the first place.

Quickly forming an alliance, Murphy and Rossi are plunged into a case that becomes more bizarre and violent with each passing day. As the brisk air swirls around the Liverpool city center, the detectives are called to investigate the murder of young female whose body has been unceremoniously dumped in Sefton Park, fully clothed and ritually laid out beneath the trees. Back at the station’s Serious Crime Unit, the team begin to work to find the girl’s identity, checking the systems for any missing persons who match the description.

Murphy is determined to stick to what he knows and investigate everything. An officer who thrives on instinct, Murphy also hopes that if nothing turns up, he will “get lucky” and break the case though sheer force of will. As the events of the morning take precedence over other cases, the chief forensic pathologist calls with the news that he has found something on the body: a letter of death, a strange diatribe about someone who wants to die and begs for an end while also preaching about a series of ghastly experiments carried out by the CIA.

To Murphy, it’s a simple open-and-shut case; the letter is fake, and it’s right to focus on someone close to the victim. But the letter’s words also seem to mock Murphy personally despite his attempts to dismiss them as the ramblings “of a spurned student.” As Murphy’s memories flood and crowd his mind (“one minute the girls’ parents stood there, next to him”), he turns to Rossi, who cleverly links all of the murders to some strange goings-on at the local university.

Dead Gone is full of harrowing scenes of torture, each grislier than the last. As Murphy and Rossi race to unlock the case, the narrative switches to the voice of Jemma, a girl named “experiment two” who is trapped in a darkened room, screaming for her life. Jemma’s desperation and fear are matched only by her boyfriend, Robert Parker, who has spent frantic months searching for her. Ignoring the advice of Jemma’s mother--that her daughter was probably bored and just took off--Rob goes on the hunt, determined to retrace the final steps of his fiancé. Murphy remembers interviewing Parker a year ago, right after Jemma first went missing. Parker becomes the prime suspect, especially after Murphy’s team spies him on camera at the dump site of the latest bloody murder.

Although Veste’s skill for energetic, gritty dialogue really makes this novel stand-out, Dead Gone works best when it delves into the emotionally shattering story of Murphy’s life. Rossi is also a powerful voice, a singular woman drawn to Murphy not in the romantic sense, but as a pupil. She knows her boss’s power and tenacity, and she wants to use him to really push forward in her career to break out of the shadow of her traditional Italian family. Plummeting into the other face of Liverpool--its graffiti-marked, shuttered shops, burnt-out pubs, and fire -scorched grass verges--the trail eventually takes Murphy and Rossi into the more salubrious areas of the City, where the forces of death are forever burnt into Murphy’s memory.

It takes real skill to write about so much wickedness while also making it palatable. Veste does it all, unfurling a spine-tingling finale in which Murphy, like Jemma, is swept into the cold clutches of a killer, fighting for his life in a world where “death is inevitable.” An unapologetic, blood-drenched creep-fest with a high butcher's bill kept me compulsively turning the final pages, already pining for next in the series, craving much more of Murphy and Rossi and their next terrifying case.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2017

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