It is never too late to be what you might have been.So far, we have three dead strangers, probably caused by Dean Reeve. He is terrorizing London in a killing spree so toxic that it has forced Frieda Klein to remain underground, carefully hiding her whereabouts. In terrifying and dizzying flashbacks, French details a car crash with multiple fatalities, the carnage is like a fever dream. Geoffrey Kernan's silver automobile shatters the space of what had once been a quaint children's clothing store. This tour of the macabre brings Frieda together with criminology student, Lola Hayes. Lola is on a mission study to analyze, unpack and deconstruct Frieda Klein. First, an element of trust must be formed as Lola traverses the streets of London fanatically searching for her subject. Lola has read all about the rapes and murders that culminated in the death of Daniel Blackstock. She is spooked to learn that Dean Reeve is still alive, having killed his twin brother and disappeared from view but all these years. For the past eight years, Reeve has been stalking Frieda like her "obsessive enemy and a creepy lover."
Hal Bradshaw leads Lola to Reuben McGill's door at Primrose Hill, where she meets Josef. Working on the Ukrainian's hunch, Lola begins her search, walking through East London and along the River Lea to Regent's Canal. Lola will finally reconnect with damaged Frieda in a tense, fast-paced narrative that glimmers like flashes in a fog with the ghosts of Dean Reeve's past. The further that Lola and Frieda step into each other's existences, the more glaring the danger that Lola will become Reeve's latest target.
DIs Bill Dugdale and Dan Quarry urgently assemble a team. On the morning of the accident, everyone saw something different. Kernan's car was stolen, the owner on vacation: "You kill a man, put him in a car and send him down a hill into a bunch of innocent people." DCI Malcolm Karlsson encourages Dugdale to follow the clues. Dugdale is convinced that the killer wants to be noticed. Frieda understands that her nemesis has long since abandoned real-life connections for a distressingly peripheral existence. She knows that the staging of the crimes is Reeve's hallmark: a car plunging into a shop, and later a body found in a bonfire half a mile away on Hamstead Heath. Obsessed on a single fixed purpose, Reeve has never stopped stalking a woman he loves and hates and wants to possess and destroy.
Time ebbs and flows like water, the dark circle of fate eating into Frieda's mind. Lola herself descends deeper and deeper into despair. Suddenly she is a pawn in Reeve's murderous cat-and-mouse game. Frieda tries to tell her to stay calm, but can Lola trust this woman? It's as though Lola has descended into another world, another life. She remembers how people associated with Frieda Klein have gotten killed: "had they trusted her or had they failed to trust her?" In her last outing, Freida carries forward the ghosts of her younger self as well as the crowd of dead people at her side: "They walk with her and she walks with them." Walking the streets of London for one final time, Frieda feels them beside her, the shadows of those she has loved and harmed--especially Sandy, whom she had loved and whose body was found floating in the Thames. There have been others over the years, so many of them sucked into Dean Reeve's "black hole."
It is November 1st, the Day of the Dead, a day to remember those who have gone. We hope that Lola is going to get the information she wants as she confronts Frieda's workmates and friends. Reeve's desperation becomes clear as he moves inexorably toward the unspeakable crimes at the center of the narrative. As French's final Freida Klein novel plays out, Frieda's family--her niece Chloe, Stefan, Reuben, Josef, Malcolm, Chloe's ex-boyfriend Jack, and all the other characters we have come to know and love--play out their stories as London's history appalls and enthralls.
This remarkable series steamrolls toward its unavoidable conclusion, no character left unharmed or unhurt. From the secret rivers that Freida follows in her efforts to solve Reeve's latest crimes, we know that their final confrontation is just around the corner. The series has been brilliantly written and executed; Day of the Dead gives us a fitting end, the warped nature of Dean Reeve's stilted deceptions finally on full display.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2018