A Cold Cold Heart, by John Nicholl

Nine stars

John Nicholl is back with another spine-tinging psychological thriller that will keep the reader hooked until the final sentence. A number of young women have turned up murdered, strangled by hand and dressed in some vintage outfits. West Wales Police takes up the investigation, headed by DI Gareth Gravel, who is still trying to balance work and his personal life. When Gravel receives a surprise visit from his daughter, Emily, he is overjoyed, especially when she reveals that she’s taken a local job as a solicitor. As the investigation heats up, Gravel suffers a health crisis that pushes him to the sidelines and allows his colleague, DS Laura Kesey, to serve as temporary point-person. Kesey uncovers some interesting information from Emily that helps point the case in a specific direction, one that Gravel cannot stomach while he remains bedridden. With a killer on the loose, their home a veritable torture chamber, and more bodies piling up, everyone soon realises that Emily’s gone missing. It will be up to Kesey to solve this horrific case and locate Emily, while keeping DI Gravel from making a rash decision that could pave the way to his permanent departure from the police force. Nicholl does not falter whatsoever in this quick read, that allows the reader to feel the full gamut of emotions. Readers who have indulged in Nicholl’s work beforehand, as well as those who love a psychological thriller with a cat-and-mouse aspect, will thoroughly enjoy this book and likely push through in a sitting or two.

I have been a Nicholl fan since I sped through his debut novel, which caught me off guard. Writing about what he knows best, Nicholl utilises the depths of despair to his advantage and produces well-paced thrillers, pushing good and evil together at every turn. DI Gravel does not make his debut here, though series fans will know that he is a tough as rocks copper that places the public above his own well-being, as is clear throughout the narrative here. Giving DS Kesey some of the spotlight will surely help pave the way for future series pieces, should some of the underlying tones of the narrative prove correct. Nicholl is able to utilise a vast array of characters to pull the story together and keep the readers curious throughout. Introducing the killer in the early stages might have been a gamble for some, but Nicholl allows the reader to see the sick development of a killer blossom, turning what might have been a hunt for a serial killer into a twisted game of cat-and-mouse, with the two sides pushing slightly under the pressure. Nicholl’s writing is such that the story flows swiftly and the chapters melt away, leaving the reader to want ‘a little more’ before bookmarking their progress. Readers are in for a serious treat should they take the time to explore this piece and the entire John Nicholl collection.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for always having some new spin to offer your fans. Your writing is stellar and you capture the nuances of the genre so effortlessly.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons