The Soul Killer (DI Barton #2), by Ross Greenwood

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Ross Greenwood, and Boldwood Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning for the second novel in this new series, I place my trust in Ross Greenwood to deliver something with as much punch as the debut book. Things are definitely different than the first time we encountered DI John Barton, but it is up to the reader to decide if they enjoy the ride. Years ago, a young boy lives under the watchful eye of his mother, a woman who has tried to put the fear of God into her son. She accepts no frills in life and is happy to punish him severely by tossing him into a cellar for long periods of time. This creates a young man who sees the world as one where sinners need to be punished, knowing that as long as he repents his sins, he will be able to rest peacefully in the afterlife. This still unnamed young man heads off to university, where he is put through trials and tribulations, only to see his anger rise slowly and his target become clearer. Moving to the present, DI John Barton and the rest of his Major Crime team attend the funeral of one of their own, lost in the field when another serial killer has exacted revenge. Barton hopes for a quiet Christmas, seeking to soak up all the time with his family that might be possible. When a member of the team is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, Barton later attends to substantiate the case; an old man who was dying chose to hang himself. In the background, the killer watches as his kills help him feel a sense of relief against those who would try to block him from feeling happiness. The dead man turns out to be the father of the killer’s girlfriend, and he hopes this will bring them closer, but she burrows away to be with her sister and brother-in-law. Wanting to push away any impediments to his happiness, the brother-in-law is next to go, but it is made to look like a drowning. From there, more killings, all apparently innocent accidents pile up, until Barton comes upon a skeleton hidden under a compost heap. The pieces begin to come together and murder becomes a word bandied about a little more freely. With the killer on the ropes, he begins what he feels is right, admitting that he might have been at the scene of a few of these accidents, but refuses to admit they were acts of aggression or murder. While repentance to a version of events might set him free, the fact that he is a cop within Major Crimes might turn his entire team against him, if they can find him. Greenwood does a masterful job at setting the scene in this piece, showing just how devious the game of cat and mouse can be. Recommended to those who enjoy a police procedural where both sides are constantly in search for one another, as well as the reader who enjoys getting inside the killer’s head.

I thoroughly enjoyed Greenwood’s debut and was pleased when I could get my hands on this one as well. He is able to tell a story effectively and with the added narrative touches that pull the reader in from the opening chapters. DI JOhn Barton is a great quasi-protagonist in this piece, offering leadership within Major Crimes while also balancing a busy home life. He is determined to get through the red tape and will not suffer fools. Forced to shepherd some of the newer recruits, Barton offers sage advice while not appearing to favour anyone. The cast of supporting characters does well to keep the reader entertain and enthralled, from cops to witnesses, and even the killer. The killer does comes across as being quite the odd character in the bigger scheme of things, acting in many ways one might not expect a person who has committed so many crimes. That said, there is a certain eeriness to him that makes the reader want to know more. Pacing out the crimes before squealing on himself at times seems an odd choice, but one that works well. Greenwood’s writing pushes the story forward and keeps the reader guessing, with two parallels narratives from Barton and the killer’s perspectives. They cross intermittently and the reveals throughout give the reader some sense of how things will come together, though there are enough twists to keep any spoilers at bay. After a slow start, the book picked up momentum and the short chapters push the story forward, as the reader wants to read ‘just a little more’. I am happy to see that Greenwood has more in store for his cast of characters, as I am eager to go on another adventure in the greater Peterborough area of England.

Kudos, Mr. Greenwood for another winner. I like the unique flavour you bring to your writing and this series looks to be getting better as things move forward.

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