Anonymity (DI Gravel #4), by John Nicholl

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to John Nicholl for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Any reader looking for a well-crafted psychological thriller need look no further than John Nicholl, whose two series have always kept me fully engaged and wondering what awaits me at the flip of a page. This novel was no different, though it takes a slightly different approach. Mia Hamilton is a popular author whose book sales continue to climb. When she receives an email from someone calling themselves her ‘number one fan’ she is, for a time, appreciative, but that loses its lustre when the messages do not stop. Just as Mia is able to assertively place this fan in their place, she receives a strongly worded message with threats to herself and her young daughter. Mia cannot help but feel that these are not idle threats and complies, though cuts some corners with the help of her sister. Displeased, the fan makes stronger demands and puts the fear of God into Mia, leading her to turn to a longtime family friend, Detective Inspector Gareth ‘Grav’ Gravel. Grav has been on sick leave and is out of the daily grind, but his passion to uncover this criminal pushes him to his limits. Meanwhile, the fan/stalker is none other than Mia’s sister’s fiancé, who enjoys the torment he can instil on Mia. Adam meticulously plans to stalk her with cameras and mind games, while Mia unwillingly relies on him to help her keep the stalker away. With Grav trying his best to help, he must overcome his own demons and loss of his wife, which push him deeper into an abyss and leave his superiors from allowing him back onto the force. With Mia worried for her safety, she accedes to Adam’s request to accompany her out of Wales in hopes of allowing the authorities to catch the stalker. Little does Mia know, she’s following the breadcrumbs provided to send her into deeper and more sadistic forms of hellish misery. Will Grav be able to locate the killer in time, or will Mia be the latest in a string of stalked and missing Welsh women? In a high-impact novel that shakes the reader to the core, Nicholl proves that he is at the top of his game in his crowded genre. Highly recommended for those who enjoy Nicholl’s work and readers who find pleasure in psych thrillers that cannot be put down.

I have been a fan of John Nicholl since first I read his work, which has strong parallels to my work in Child Protection. Nicholl works to develop both a protagonist and antagonist, such that the reader sees both sides of the coin throughout, in hopes of forecasting the clash that will lead to an eventual solution to the crime. DI Gravel remains a wonderful copper, though his struggles have overtaken him. With his removal from the police, he does not have the same supports, though his team does liaise with him and fill in the gaps whenever possible. He works his way through this piece effectively, though is not as sharp as in past pieces, for obvious reasons. Mia proves to be somewhat of a vapid character, though perhaps Nicholl wanted her to be this vulnerable. She proves to be a stereotypical victim in that she is too scared to stand her ground and tosses herself at others to help. In this case, into the arms of the man who is causing her grief (something revealed early on and therefore I would not call it a spoiler). Adam’s role is interesting, as he plagues his sister-in-law-to-be, turning her life into a living hell. If I can be critical of Nicholl here, the character lays too many clues out intentionally to have him caught. Without spoiling the story, Adam turns his attention on others in too many blatant ways, forcing the reader to question why it took so long to finger him. Still, the thrill of the case takes the reader through many twists and kept me curious until the very end, where Nicholl has a treat for the dedicated reader. The strong story is not hampered by knowing who is the antagonist from the opening pages, as things turn into more of a psychological game of cat and mouse. Readers can appreciate the attention to detail that Nicholl has placed in his novel and series fans can see much progress throughout the four novels. One can only hope Nicholl continues writing at this level, as there is so much to appeal to readers of this genre.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for such a great piece. I am so pleased to have been given an early copy, allowing me to share some of my insights.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: