You Can Run
Steve Mosby
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Buy *You Can Run* by Steve Mosbyonline

You Can Run
Steve Mosby
Pegasus Books
336 pages
December 2017
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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From the UK's grittiest crime writer, Steve Mosby's You Can Run features DI Will Turner, a maverick cop with an introverted private life and a vintage, sophisticated persona. Will works in a northern police department and is currently renting a room from his colleague, DI Emma Beck. When Will's gaze drifts to the half-demolished garage on the side of a suburban house, he sees a naked woman, gagged and strapped into a homemade wooden pillory, squatting in the darkness on the rough stone of the garage floor, like some kind of "macabre dinner tableau." In the darkness and silence, the missing girl, Amanda Cassidy, stares back at both Will and Emma as though she's lost in the past.

Amanda's sudden rescue is a prelude to a far grislier discovery. In the cellar of John Edward Blythe's house sit four opaque white plastic and black lidded drums. Finally solved is the fate of 14 women who have gone missing over 17 years. Until today, the women had vanished without a trace; no bodies had ever been found. Like most people in the country, Will was aware of the crimes, until he himself was burned by the trauma of his own loss. Back at police headquarters, Will and Emma coordinate the search for Blythe with DCI Graham and DI James Ferguson, who led the initial investigation into Amanda's disappearance.

In these early sections, Will comes across as a sort of chief investigator "boy wonder." As he ponders the photos from the second room in Blythe's cellar, he tries to negotiate around Ferguson, who refuses to relinquish his power over the case. As far as Will knows, Blythe--the man who would eventually become known as the Red River Killer--abducted his first victim in May 1999. The case becomes a catalyst for Will, linking his past to his best friend, Rob, and his old girlfriend, Anna. With the weight of Anna's gaze "pressing against his back," Will is torn between confessing to Emma about how Anna is related to Blythe's case: "What was harder to explain was why, and the guilt I felt. To reveal my connection to the case and how much it meant to me."

The novel is a lot like ITV'S recent crime drama Dark Heart (Tom Riley's character of Will Wagstaffe is a dead ringer for Mosby's Will Turner). Both are flawed men in constant conflict with those around them. Will Turner's nemesis is DI Ferguson, who takes control, insisting that the investigation will have two interconnected but separate areas of focus. First, the matter of tying the victims to Blythe; second, and most important: to find the location of Blythe and try to get him to turn himself in. Will is irritated that Blythe has managed to so easily slip away. Buoyed by an avalanche of potential sightings, Will and Emma work to see if there is anything in Blythe's life that might indicate where he could be. Will hits upon the idea that Blythe traveled north, to the village of Moorton, to The Frog Pond where Blythe's penchant for violence originated and where his fate will come full circle.

Mosby's gritty style reflects an unpleasant realism as the plot segues into the origin of a series of letters mailed to the police. Almost loving but disturbing, the letters were ignored because they didn't seem to fit with Blythe's modus of sexual assault or torture. While the crux of the story is the team's attempt to find Blythe, more disreputable are the secrets of Simon Bunting. Calling Blythe "The Monster," Bunting admits that his connection to the older man is the best way to fulfil his own twisted fetishes. Like Blythe's alter ego, even more sinister is the fact that Bunting--a small and apparently defenseless man--has a "monster" of his own that he's ready to unleash. Bunting is well aware that Blythe possesses a certain degree of base, animal cunning and is "a brute at heart."

Crime novels by their nature require an increased amount of creativity to be seen as wholly original. Mosby's tunnels Will and Emma into a series of twists, turning the case in an entirely new direction. Jeremy Townsend, the husband of one of the victims, appears at the station, telling Will a very different story about the disappearance of his wife, Melanie West. Through the fog of grief and guilt, the grieving Jeremy acts nervous and guilty, as though some sort of secret is weighing down upon him. Did Jeremy plan all along to hide his wife's murder in the middle of an existing serial killer's spree?

While Will and Emma's pain is shared by the reader, who roots for them to find Blythe, the actions of Will, on a mission to expose Blythe's past, overshadow any shocks the reader might experience at the novel's more violent passages. While the volatile plot gives the book its power, I mostly found myself wanting to read more about Will Turner. I hope Steve Mosby writes a sequel so that we can finally discover the circumstances that might have turned Will into the man that he is.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2018

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