Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on The Nightmare Place.
For those who enjoy the dark side writ well, this UK author pulls no punches, fashioning a thriller that doesn’t let up until its gripping resolution. The determined actions of Detective Inspector Zoe Dolan drive the story.
Her partner, DI Chris Sands, usually stands one step behind, chronically complaining “you’ve got to do everything yourself, haven’t you?” Perpetually impatient, Dolan’s penchant for tackling matters alone has put her in jeopardy more than once, but waiting for backup when a crime is in progress isn’t her strong suit. Currently, the department is spending all resources on an escalating threat: a rapist called “the Creeper” who carefully selects his victims then escapes without detection. Even forewarned by the police to securely lock all doors and windows, the women are not safe. Though their descriptions are vague, the survivors agree that the man exudes hatred and menace. An accurate description proves elusive, the police frustrated as the severity and frequency of attacks increase.
Mosby sets the stage for terror with a series of characters and diverse perspectives: Zoe Dolan; the unsuspecting women at risk; an elderly widow frightened by the world, now intimidated by a rude neighbor; her clumsy and antisocial nephew; and a shy young woman who has recently joined a crisis intervention line called Mayday. Jane Webster has just finished her training for the hotline, fresh from an unsatisfactory relationship and trying to overcome a lifetime of negative messages with affirmative behavior.
While it makes her a great investigator, Dolan’s past still haunts her, her nights disturbed by a recurring nightmare set on the poverty-riddled estate where she grew up. The nightmare has an aura of imminent danger, a subconscious warning that “something awful is coming.” A pivotal confrontation in her youth changed her direction in life
and provided unexpected opportunity, though unresolved childhood relationships remain unfinished, neglected endings and half-formed memories.
In this complex protagonist, that lingering sense of threat shadows her search for the Creeper.
Zoe’s childhood experiences inform her work as a detective with the ability to read people and push for answers.
As anticipated, the Creeper not only increases his attacks on helpless women but finally takes a life, whetting his appetite for more deadly violence, his behavior now more dangerous to future victims. A break comes from an unexpected source: Jane Webster, the hotline listener. Jane has received two calls at Mayday from a man who claims to be the killer. Though the calls are anonymous and confessional, Jane feels compelled to report to the police even at the risk of losing her position. But Dolan isn’t unduly concerned;
many individuals confess to such outrageous and headline-grabbing crimes--but for a key piece of information that wasn’t shared with the public. Convinced that Jane may have actually been listening to the Creeper, the task force is energized, Zoe sensing an opportunity to make real progress at last.
There is progress, but not in any predictable way. Mosby’s sleight of hand offers a number of possibilities for the identity of the Creeper, parallel events that add to an emerging picture of the perpetrator but
are subtle enough to confuse even the most devoted fans of the genre. Crime scenes and situations are graphic, the terror tangible, a complex network of people and motives that give emotional context to the story while ratcheting up the sense of peril. Violence is always just around the corner, whether in the persona of an unsuspecting victim, the Creeper himself, or Detective Dolan acting without backup. Yet his identity remains unknown, the carefully erected dominoes falling one after another until Zoe is face to face with the monster the women have described. This is the dark side of human nature, all right, masterfully rendered by a true artist. Don’t miss it.