Pop Goes the Weasel
M.J. Arlidge
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Buy *Pop Goes the Weasel (A Detective Helen Grace Thriller)* by M.J. Arlidgeonline

Pop Goes the Weasel (A Detective Helen Grace Thriller)
M.J. Arlidge
416 pages
October 2015
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Aldridge repeats the successful style of his prior novel: short chapters and the slow building of elements, detectives, victims, predators, images captured like the flash of a camera as the plot evolves. Protagonist Detective Inspector Helen Grace returns, frantically assembling the pieces of an important case, her private idiosyncrasies adding another layer to the plot. If Eeny Meeny taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Grace is a tough cop, a woman who keeps her own counsel. Driven by private demons--and apt to make mistakes in judgment--Grace has no tolerance for fools and holds grudges, currently chafing under her new Detective Superintendant, Ceri Harwood. Passionately loyal unless betrayed, Helen sinks her teeth into a case as she pursues it into the dark and bloody corners where she’ll fight to the death if necessary. Once she has the scent, nothing will keep this detective from tracking her quarry down. Not easy to befriend, but a charismatic leader in this kind of soul-searing work. Everybody else is just window dressing, even the killer.

As the current murder spree continues, so does the pressure to solve the case. A pattern slowly emerges: male victims killed by a vicious female, their hearts extracted and delivered to home or workplace. The murderer may be a prostitute, at least a female who prowls the rough areas of Southampton where streetwalkers ply their trade and pimps feed on men’s insatiable appetites. Interviewing the families of victims is a nightmare, most of the victims slaughtered while paying for sex. The wife of the first victim, Alan Matthews, sets the bar for future notifications, an anxious wife learning her mate’s fate while his proclivities for sexual peccadilloes are exposed to the world. Gliding through Southampton without drawing attention, the killer thrives on each new conquest, the thrill of seduction, the ecstasy of a bloody death.

True to form, Helen conducts her investigation with fanatical vigor, resisting Harwood’s attempts to bring her to heel as their relationship disintegrates. Gratified that her former Detective Constable, Charlie Boone, is returned to the squad, Helen relies on the support of Boone and her second-in-command, Detective Sergeant Tony Bridges. Meanwhile, another familiar character inserts herself into Grace’s investigation: Emilia Garanita of the Southampton Evening News, who plans to make her journalistic bones on Grace’s back, their long enmity grown more vitriolic. Unfortunately, DS Harwood has cultivated Garanita, ordering Helen to share information with the reporter. As the hostility between Harwood and Grace grows more adversarial, Garanita shadows Helen’s every move, learning her most intimate secrets to use as leverage. And Grace has always got secrets, private business she guards against intrusion and exposure.

Events converge, Helen at odds with her supervisor but determined to stop this killer first, consequences be damned. There will be a bloody, violent confrontation, a history of tragedy exposed and a life redeemed, an explosive ending to a thriller filled with betrayals, threats and the stupidity of narrow minds, business as usual for the one-woman wrecking crew Helen Grace, the detritus of a messy investigation swept away like yesterday’s headlines. Like Eeny Meeny, it’s a wild ride, though Aldridge’s protagonist is at risk of becoming predictable, a loner whose denial of her own humanity leaves little room for sympathy--too inaccessible, maybe too flawed.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2015

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