Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Dead Woman Walking.
Boltonís latest thriller, Dead Woman Walking, is another example of this authorís storytelling gift, stories rich in plot and character development, each with a compelling protagonist. (Disclosure: I am apt to describe each new Bolton novel this way, true each time I make the claim. I have read every title Bolton has published.) In Dead Woman Walking, there are two essential protagonists: sisters Jessica and Isabel Lane. Isabel is a cloistered nun in a convent near Northumberland and the Scottish border. With most of their family gone, including their parents, Jessica has made it a habit to visit Sister Maria Magdalena as often as allowed by the Mother Superior. On her sisterís fortieth birthday, Jessica has a surprise for Isabel. She has gotten permission to take Isabel on a hot air balloon ride.
In the crisp morning air, the passengers are thrilled, the balloon rising gently into the air, floating above the trees in Northumberland National Park. As they drift over a farmhouse, Jessica and Isabel witness a violent act; the perpetrator glances up in time to see Jessica taking his picture with her phone. His actions thereafter trigger a series of tragedies, including the crash of the balloon as terrified passengers descend swiftly toward the earth, clinging to one another. From that traumatic beginning, the tension is relentless.
The plot expands apace: the lone survivor of the crash running from the killer pursuing her, the authorities recovering bodies, beginning an investigation into the crash. For her own reasons, Jessica dare not confide in the police
as the killer unceasingly follows, intending to permanently remove the only witness to the crime.
A few chapters set in the time before the fateful balloon ride provide important insight into the sistersí relationship and the reason for Isabelís retreat to the convent.
They stand in sharp contrast to the massive investigation currently being staged by the Northumberland Constabulatory, particularly the efforts of the Chief Constable and Superintendant Ajax Maldonado, who has a certain interest in the missing woman who has so far eluded them.
The dark secrets of vital characters inspire the chase. Jessica returns stealthily to locations near the crash site to retrieve information she must protect. Meanwhile, frustrated police continue to search for clues with little success.
The killer seen from the balloon reveals his relationship with a large gypsy family known for extensive criminal enterprises over the years. There is much at stake in Jessicaís flight toward safety, her actions central to understanding the balloonís fatal plunge to earth and material that can expose the gypsy familyís current heinous scheme.
Primarily set in Northumberland, the landscape seethes with murderous plots while a sprawling police investigation is
faces a public furor with too few answers. A lone woman evades capture, grieving the loss of her beloved sister--the secret she would never share taken with her to the grave.
In the convent where Isabel took her vows to the cloistered life, the contemplative nuns and their Mother Superior are perhaps the most wonderful part of an otherwise shocking thriller replete with the desperate actions and easy violence of a renegade culture.
More than one soulless character seeks to silence the lone protagonist. Full of twists and surprises, Bolton once again delivers a tale impossible to put down until the last page.