Bolton is an imaginative and reliable chronicler of thrillers in which the forces of light and darkness clash, leaving the reader both pondering the final resolution and a racing pulse. Although each of her novels is uniquely different from the others, all are stand-alone scary, Bolton’s work carving a niche in the genre.
Set in London, the mythology of Jack the Ripper plays a dominant role in this escalating drama of secrets, murder and betrayal. Detective Constable Lacey Flint is exiting her car when a woman stumbles against her, wide blue eyes vacant, blood gushing from ragged gashes across her throat and down her torso. The ghastly murder seems random until those that follow: carefully chosen female victims that are discovered one by one, eerily similar to Jack the Ripper’s deadly rampage in 1881 London: “London lies today under the spell of a great terror.”
Out of her jurisdiction, Flint is kept to the fringes of the investigation until the lead detective, DI Dana Tulloch, takes advantage of Lacey’s knowledge of all things Ripper - intimate details that connect the infamous murders of 1881 with the current killings, invaluable in predicting potential victims and locations for the next choices. The usual pressure increases on Tulloch to solve the murders quickly. Dana appreciates Flint’s help, has sympathy for the untried officer, but DI Mark Joesbury views the subtly attractive Lacey Flint with suspicion and no little hostility, troubled by her proximity to the crime scenes and increasing requests for Flint to be included in police responses to anonymous phone calls, unsigned notes and a newspaper reporter who will share information only with Lacey.
Her past a bit of an enigma by design, Lacey is unusually private, a past of homelessness and drug addiction helpful in her work on behalf of young females at risk of the violent rapes that plague London’s poor, but a barrier to any intimacy with her fellow officers. The tension between Flint and Joesbury is palpable, part of a complicated interaction that delivers a powerful emotional climax at the end of the story. Lacey is keeping secrets, dark ones that threaten the case - and somehow Mark knows this - but self-preservation and a traumatic history dictate caution to a woman attempting a precarious balance between professionalism and bone-deep loyalty.
The murders shine a spotlight on London’s poverty-riddled underbelly, the discrepancies of England’s class system, the public’s demand for titillating stories and police protection, and the many-headed mythology of Ripper’s unsolved murders, Victorian buildings where Jack’s victims were found leached of people but crowded with intentional violence and the haunting screams of victims, a rich and troubling catalog of crimes. Flint’s history catches up to her in a shocking conclusion as a twisted mind from the past shatters the façade of the present and destroys the future, Lacey caught in a fated reckoning, the inevitable collision of love, loyalty, betrayal and a heartbreaking moment of decision. Pure Bolton - twists and tangles to the very end.