The Neighbour, by Fiona Cummins

Eight stars

With another psychological thriller, Fiona Cummins shakes the reader to the core as they wonder who might be watching them from behind a covered window. In a small Essex town, there have been a handful of murders that cannot be explained. The eerie sense of something wrong is concentrated on The Avenue, a residential area where the homeowners can only wonder who might be behind the crimes. The bodies appear peaceful, with no marks left on them, save the eyes removed and replaced with fakes. The victims seem left like discarded dolls, left in the woods to fend for themselves. Some residents point the fingers to a reclusive doll maker who is rarely seen, though youths do all they can to provoke him, while others wonder if it could be another neighbour, who seems just a little too…different. When the Lockwoods move in, some hope this is a sign of new life. Knowing the history of the area, Olivia and Garrick hope to make a brief impact while they renovate and sell for a profit. Meanwhile, the killer seems to have focussed their attention on the fresh blood, staying one step ahead of all others in a plan to strike at any moment. Someone is out there, watching, and waiting. The further the investigation goes, the more is revealed, though this is not always a good thing. The killer will strike again, though it is impossible to tell when and who could have the motive to complete such heinous attacks. Told from the perspective of many, including the killer, Cummins leaves the reader to guess as they peer through the eyes of many, piecing this story together. A wonderful tale that will send chills down the spines of many and keep the reader wondering if they really know that person who lives up the road. Recommended for those who enjoy a well-balanced thriller with twists throughout.

I discovered Fiona Cummins not too long ago and was hooked by her short series about the hunt for a serial murderer. From there, I promised myself that I would keep an eye out to see if she wrote anything else. When this book crossed my radar, I knew that I would have to get my hands on it, to see if it reached the same level of intensity. It did, and then some, as I sought to see if I could crack the mystery while others in the story hid behind their curtains and speculated over tea. While there are many characters who grace the pages of this piece, the killer appears to be one whose presence cannot be forgotten. Told through a series of memories about events in this small town, the killer recounts of a simple life of children and entertaining, which turned sour at one point and left a pall of death and despair. With a focus on the Lockwood family, new to the area, the killer has a plan with the new blood placed before them, upping the ante and keeping the reader wondering what might be next. With the varied perspectives in this book, the reader will not be short of any character development or flavoured narrative, particularly as they muddle through the various perspectives Cummins offers when it comes to analyzing the crime. The story is well developed as it keeps the reader wondering just who might be involved and how the investigation will play out. With short chapters that alternate between ‘now’—when the killer takes control of the narrative and offers insight—and the summer of 2018, Cummins paints a picture of how this bucolic Essex community turned to one where no one can trust anyone else and all eyes look for clues as to who might be to blame. There is a definitive chill factor here and I know I will keep the blinds down, just in case!

Kudos, Madam Cummins, for another winner. I have come to enjoy your style of writing and hope to see more from you in the coming years!

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

The Collector (The Bone Collector #2), by Fiona Cummins

Eight stars

Fiona Cummins’ second novel holds all the intensity of the first, captivating the reader yet again. Picking up soon after the first novel ended, Cummins envelops the reader in this thriller, tantalising them with her wonderful abilities and cliffhanger moments. Clara Foyle is still missing, having not been found when the police raided one of the residences of the Bone Collector. In a gaffe during transport, the Bone Collector got loose and fled, remaining off the radar. These developments have been haunting DS Etta Fitzroy ever since, forcing her to come to terms with the horror of a child that has been lost. While she remains determined to find Clara, DS Fitzroy must wait for a significant clue to emerge. Meanwhile, after settling in rural Essex, the Bone Collector, now going by the name Mr. Silver, is trying to reestablish himself, much of his work still unfinished. He has found an apprentice who will be able to help him with his work while also trying to decide what purpose Clara might serve. Saul is a teenage boy forced to care for his alcoholic mother alone, after his father fled. Filled with angst and animosity, he is the ideal candidate to work alongside Mr. Silver, though he is still not entirely sure what is in store for him. After a new victim is lured to the beachfront house and killed for her bone anomaly, Mr. Silver has found his legs and is back in business. All that he needs to do now is tell the world he’s back, with a cryptic message affixed to the skeleton of a rabbit. DS Fitzroy is ready to resume the hunt, but will she be prepared for what Mr. Silver has planned now, and with someone to help? Cummins keeps up her electrifying story and leaves the reader stunned as they push through to see how it will all come to play out. Those who enjoyed the first novel in the series, as well as readers who love a good psychological thriller, will love this second piece.

Fiona Cummins has not lost the momentum she developed with the start of this series, pushing the genre out of its comfort zone. This only goes to show that Cummins is ready to use her ideas and reshape an already crowded genre, pushing her to the top of the list, amongst other powerful writers. Etta Fitzroy is still superb cop who has been processing the difficulties of a jaded work-home balance and a husband whose forced her to rethink her life choices. Armed with the failure to apprehend the Bone Collector once and for all, with Clara Foyle still out there, DS Fitzroy must work even harder not to botch the case again. The Bone Collector—Mr. Silver—has regrouped and sees the benefit of cultivating a new generation to continue his macabre museum of bones and medical anomalies. He’s found Saul and will do whatever it takes to ingratiate himself with the teen, hoping to fill a massive gap in the boy’s life. Still, there is much work to be done and many lives hang in the balance, as well as victims that must be culled around the country. Cummins offers some great backstory here to explore where the penchant for bones and murder might have originated, providing the reader with wonderful insight. The story is just as strong as before, flowing well through chapters full of information and cliffhanger moments. It would appear that date and time stamping each chapter poses the dual benefit of providing the reader some context and showing that Clara is still missing, and has yet to be recovered. This chill is not lost on the attentive reader, who wonders what is in store for the victim who has touched the lives of many characters in this book. Cummins does a magnificent job at injecting thrills and suspense into her narrative, leaving things hanging as she forces the reader to beg for more.

Kudos, Madam Cummins, for another award-worthy novel. I hope others will see what I have discovered and pick up this series in short order.

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

Rattle (The Bone Collector #1), by Fiona Cummins

Eight stars

Fiona Cummins’ debut novel has all the ingredients of a captivating thriller and keeps the reader hooked until the final chapters. After Clara Foyle is abducted outside a sweets shop, the community is swept up in the panic and a search commences. Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy is used to this panic, but must work quickly to nail down some leads before the trail goes cold and Clara is all but forgotten by the public. As she pokes around the crime scene, DS Fitzroy comes upon the skeletal remains of some animal, something she eventually learns is a rabbit. Affixed to the rabbit’s foot is a message, some code that might refer to a biblical passage, related to bones. There is surely an abductor out there, but no leads to offer anything concrete. Fitzroy is still haunted by another child abduction on her plate, one that has yet to be solved, though the family remains hopeful. When another young boy disappears, this time from his hospital bed, Fitzroy discovers another set of rabbit bones and is certain there is a connection. Who might have done this and for what reason? The only connection between Clara and Jakey Frith is their age…and that they both suffered from a bone anomaly. Poring over the evidence and family histories, DS Fitzroy concludes that the abductor must have an interest in bones. Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows, the Bone Collector has both children held captive, prepping them to add to his macabre personal museum, passed on to him by a curious father. With Clara and Jakey almost ready for their induction into the bone museum, DS Fitzroy has no time to lose. The smallest clue could crack the case wide open, but one false move and two children may soon become medical specimens. A brilliant novel that exemplifies just how ready Fiona Cummins is to break onto the scene. Fans of a ‘bone chilling’ thriller will flock to this and stay up late trying to race to the finish.

I always enjoy discovering new authors who seek to push their way onto the psychological thriller scene, perfecting their craft with a few strong novels. Cummins has done so with this single novel, laying the groundwork for a wonderful series with detailed plots and strong characters. Etta Fitzroy is a decent cop who has been trying to come to terms with a work-home balance and failing miserably. However, home is but a distraction as she is elbow-deep trying to trace the path of a serial killer/abductor who has an odd fascination. This drive pushes Fitzroy to break away from the mould her father—also a copper—left her, in a world where female strength is still in its infancy. The Bone Collector, that curious man in the shadows, has an interesting backstory and drive to continue his work. Able to plant himself into society, he has a history that is as detailed as it is horrific. Trying to continue his work, the Collector seeks to find the most interesting cases and display them, though only the most macabre will ever come to view the specimens on offer. The story is strong and flows easily from chapter to chapter, helping the reader to find their footing in short order. Short teaser chapters with time prints bridge the larger and more exploratory ones, all in an effort to keep the reader engaged until the very end. Cummins does a magnificent job and has left things hanging, if only to keep the reader begging for more. Depending on the depth that Cummins wishes to explore, I can see this series developing into something addictive for readers who enjoy the darkest side of police procedurals.

Kudos, Madam Cummins, for introducing fans to your work and showing that you belong in this genre. Your ability to spin such gruesome tales could catapult you shifting to the top, amongst some of the best in the field.

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