The Girl in White, by John Nicholl

Eight stars

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

Always a fan John Nicholl, I was pleased to get my hands on his latest work, which pushes the reader well outside their comfort zone. His work mixes the sharpness of a police procedural with some psychological elements that add not only a degree of evil but a heart-stopping element to an already wonderful piece of writing. Harry Gilmore is distraught after the recent end to his relationship and finds himself at the local pub to drown his sorrows. Little does he expect to be the target of a beautiful woman, but that is precisely what happens. While things seem to be going well, there is a motive here, preying on his vulnerability. Harry is drugged and carted off, taken as part of a recruitment for a local religious community. It would seem this was all pre-ordained as part of the order from one ‘Master’, who has his following beg for worthiness as they wear white robes and follow his every lead. When Harry does not answer any calls for over a week, his mother approaches the West Wales Police, where Detective Inspector Laura Keyes agrees to speak with her. With little to go on, DI Keyes agrees to keep an eye open, but there is little when it comes to any leads surrounding Harry Gilmore. After some interviews and CCTV footage, there may be something, as Harry is seen being taken, but that is not enough to give the authorities the needed information to pursue his disappearance. After a plea to the public, DI Keyes receives a disturbing visit from the sister of one of the religious group adherents, who discusses the cult-like nature of the group and the hierarchy that bears some semblance to a Jonestown or something Manson might have led in decades past. Armed with a warrant, DI Keyes and her team storm the property, with little success. However, this intrusion may be the catalyst to a series of events the Master demands and his followers follow. Retrieving Harry Gilmore may only be the beginning, in a tale that has deep-seeded psychological disturbances. Nicholl does well to pull the reader in with a social commentary on religious communities and their hierarchies. Recommended to those who enjoy a quick read that packs a punch, as well as the reader well-versed in all things John Nicholl.

There is never a lack of action when it comes to John Nicholl and his work. He has laid the groundwork for many wonderful stories that mix disturbing psychological happenings with a police presence that tries to stay one step ahead. His usual goal is to pull the reader into the middle of a powerful story that has deeply criminal elements, with no character safe from harm. DI Laura Keyes takes the reins of control as the somewhat protagonist of the story. Those familiar with Nicholl’s work will know that Keyes has some large shoes to fill, though she does well. Her grit and determination standout throughout the piece, particularly as she faces some of the more problematic aspects of the criminal element. Pushed well outside her comfort zone, Keyes must catch a killer who is surrounded by underlings willing to do whatever is asked of them. Some of the other characters within this story portray the wonders of mind control and religious adherence. Whether Nicholl is seeking to comment on the herd mentality of religious communities or the power of persuasion, he does well to depict both through these secondary characters who are on a mission throughout to ensure Master is pleased. The story is strong and well constructed, flowing with ease as the reader loses themselves in the narrative. Nicholl’s style of writing leads the reader to be able to push through the book in a short time period, gasping as they finish and wanting even more. Many of his past books have left me highly disturbed by the content, though gore is not usually a central element. Nicholl has many wonderful ideas from his past professions and uses them well. Not a book to be missed by those who enjoy a little awkwardness in their reading.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, on another successful book. While not my favourite of your pieces, this novel does pack a punch and makes me eager to see what else is to come.

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