The Cellar, by John Nicholl

Eight stars

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

When approached by John Nicholl to read his latest novel, I was pleased and cleared my schedule. Nicholl is known for his succinct and yet terrifyingly realistic depictions of the depravity that the world can produce. With short chapters and a punchy plot, the story flows well and keeps the reader enthused until all is revealed.

Marcus Gove has had issues for many years, something that has been whispered about by those who spend time with him. However, he’s never been caught and keeps some of his deepest secrets to himself. He captures women and stores them in his cellar, particularly those who will not be missed. He enjoys sick forms of torture, dismembering his victims and ensuring their parts are found by others.

After Gove, who refers to himself as Moloch in public, tries to entice a young Lucy Williams to come paint him home, she is intrigued. The daughter of the local Member of Parliament, Williams is pleased to see her artistic talents are being noticed by those in West Wales. When Lucy is lured to Moloch’s home, she soon realises that she’s in way over her head. Being held captive, she will have to hope that someone notices she’s gone missing.

When Lucy’s father calls on the police to help with his disappearance, the West Wales force begin their investigation. Part of that includes calling DI Laura Kesey back from holiday. Working with the few clues at her disposal, DI Kesey begins learning a little more about this Moloch and how serious things could get for Lucy if she’d not found soon. It’s a race against time with a ruthless murderer hiding in the shadows. Nicholl does it again with an impactful novel sure to chill all readers.

John Nicholl is one author I can be sure will entertain me with his stories. Set in Wales, the novels offer that wonderful flavouring, while also tapping into some great storytelling of the darker side of society. Nicholl is back to present a piece about a sadistic killer who is on the hunt for more victims, with a police force ready to delve in and keep the peace. I enjoyed this one again and hope there are more to come soon.

Nicholl knows how to spin a tale, using a strong narrative base to provide the reader with something easy to follow, Adding a handful of strong characters who are able to flesh out the narrative foundation, Nicholl adds another element that keeps things moving. With a plot similar to some of his past pieces, Nicholl must try to make this piece stand out. He did so, while also using the traditional ‘police hunt’ tactic that many novels in the genre tend to prefer. While everything seemed to go really well, I was a little disappointed with what appeared to be a quick resolution. A swift act within the cellar and the police come rushing in, then the story ties itself up in a few more pages. I would have liked something a tad more suspenseful and developing in the climax.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another winner. I am always happy to see when one of your books lands in my inbox.

The Father (David Galbraith Series #3), by John Nicholl

Eight stars

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

Happy to have the latest John Nicholl novel in hand, I rushed to settle down for a guaranteed chilling thriller. Those who have read many of his past books will know Nicholl tends to take things to the most intense and provide chilling detail about abusive situations he has come across in some of his past work. This was somewhat in the same vein, though the story was more one of a memoir that a childhood victim was compiling to publish for the world to read about the horrors of Dr. David Galbraith. Nicholl chills the reader and provides all the ingredients for a successful thriller.

Anthony Mailer has lived quite the life. It is only now, in his adult years, that he is able to look back at the horrors of his childhood, all of which occurred at the hands of Dr. David Galbraith, a child psychologist. Galbraith has been convicted of many sexual assault crimes against his child patients and Mailer wants to adds his own flavouring to the stories being bandied around.

Mailer spends much of the novel recounting the various people that he interviewed about his experiences, from parents to police officials and even those who worked alongside Dr. Galbraith, slowly piecing together the narrative to provide the reader with something a little clearer. A young boy, struggling at home, then thrust into the hands (and eventually lair) of Dr David Galbraith, where he becomes the latest plaything for this sexual predator.

As the story progresses, both Mailer and the reader discover just how depraved things got, as well as how clueless the family might have been to what was taking place. Mailer comes together with the abuse and tries to get a clearer picture, all in the hopes of sharing it with others, who may not fully comprehend the struggles that took place all those years ago. If that were not enough, Mailer struggles with his own family as to how he will face the truths that come to the surface, watching his marriage disintegrate before his eyes. While John Nicholl has penned a few other novels around Galbraith, this one hit home in a different manner and should have series fans eager to dive in!

I have long had an obsession with the books penned by John Nicholl, as they remind me of my years working in the Child Protection field. Nicholl pulls some of the most startling material and massages it into something chilling for the reader to enjoy, or at least gasp as they read. While this was not as detailed as some of the past books, it does offer something chilling and worth reading by the curious reader.

Nicholl has always been able to build a strong narrative, partially pulled from his past experiences. He adds details to keep the reader enthralled and leads the story along many curious paths. His characters are on point and quite realistic, likely from the realism these stories have at their root. Plot twists abound, forcing the reader to synthesise a great deal of information and expect what they least could have predicted. While all this works well, the impact this book had did not match the others in the David Galbraith series, of which this is apparently the third novel. There was a lack of horror and depravity, which may seem odd to mention. However, I have come to expect to be chilled to the bone, but was rather feeling as though I were watching things progress from on high, I think the memoir-style of this book did that, which is no fault of Nicholl’s. I came in expecting to be blown away and was simply highly impressed. That said, many others might find it chilling to the bone, especially new readers to this series.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what else you create in the coming months.

Killing Evil, by John Nicholl

Nine stars

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

I always find myself quite excited when I learn that John Nicholl has published another book. His style and choice of topics never ceases to have me clear my schedule so that I can devour his publications in short order, as they are filled with so many interesting characters and plots. In this piece, the reader meets Alice Granger, a young woman who has been saddled with horrible abuse as a child. She takes it upon herself to rise up and handle things in her own way, no matter the consequences. This vigilante behaviour follows her into adulthood, where she takes a position in a probation office. There, she is privy to the records of many who have made abuse a part of their daily lives. Alice decides to exact her own form of justice, hoping that it will create a form of justice, no matter what society might feel! Nicholl captivates the reader with ease and has found new ways to keep his fans enthralled.

Alice Granger was a victim of severe abuse, as far back as she can remember. Her father preyed on her in numerous ways, leaving physical and emotional scars that would not heal. Vowing to remove herself from being the helpless one, she took matters into her own hands and killed her father, while making it look like a freak accident.

This sense of ‘justice served’ follows Alice into adulthood, where she takes up a career within the probation office. While there, Alice sees many other men who feel the need to abuse children in sundry ways. Feeling a sense of responsibility, Alice lures them into traps and disposes of them, murdering a handful in short order. She’s careful to keep suspicion off her by trying to send the police in many directions, always one step ahead.

While the news is full of these stories, Alice keeps her cool, even as an office supervisor becomes more concerned with the number of their parolees who were being killed. When a Welsh detective starts poking around, Alice knows she will have to be especially careful and takes additional steps to cover her tracks, all the while trying to subdue the voice of her father from echoing inside her head. One false move could end this vigilante campaign and Alice has no intention of letting others suffer while she is caught for something seemingly justifiable. A chilling tale and one many of Nicholl’s fans will find right up their alley.

Each book I read by John Nicholl, I am taken back to my time working within child protective services (as I am sure he is as well, from his years on the job). The details that emerge and the utter horror of cases that are woven into the narrative make these books highly impactful. The sense of vigilante justice, while surely not condoned by many, almost has a place after reading this piece, causing the reader to debate whether Alice Granger is a hero or a cold-blooded killer. The choice is there for all to make!

Alice Granger proves to be a calculating woman in all she does. Throughout the piece, which is written in the form of numerous journal entries for the reader to enjoy, Alice shows her methodical nature and how her life has been a series of horrors that must be rectified. Alice finds little remorse in what she does, feeling that there is not only a need, but a justification for her actions. Readers will see deep inside her psyche as they get deeper into the story, one that will leave some on the fence as to what ought to be done.

Nicholl has a unique way of writing standalone novels that use some of his core characters, even in passing. The handful of individuals who make an appearance in this story serve the purpose to shape the narrative and advance the Alice Granger storyline. Using one of his key series protagonists, DI Laura Kesey, was brilliant and adds a layer of connectivity to the overall collections of novels, while allowing others to take the spotlight without issue. All those who grace the pages of this book have a purpose and Nicholl is careful to place them where it will serve them best.

I loved this story, as I have with many of the others that John Nicholl has written. There is a sense of both depravity and justice in the piece, as though the horrors of child abuse can be counterbalanced with the retribution that is made in the name of the powerless child. The narrative is strong and utilises the first-person journal-like approach to convey the inner thoughts of the protagonist as she tries to suss out what needs doing to bring balance to a jaded world. Short chapters keep the reader propelling forward and can assure a late night binge just to get to the ultimate solution, which Nicholl does so well. Social commentary is woven into the writing, though Nicholl does not try to inculcate the reader, even with all he has seen and the opinions he has surely developed. This impactful book may leave some feeling a tad uncomfortable, but the end result seems to make sense, at least for those with an open mind to how justice might work best and an affinity for the safety of children.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another impactful novel. I cannot say enough about it and I look forward to seeing what’s next!

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

The Sisterhood, by John Nicholl

Eight stars

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

John Nicholl is back with another chilling psychological thriller. Working with some of his strongest characters, Nicholl crafts a story that shows the lengths to which ‘girl power’ can go when someone’s in trouble, even if it’s not entirely legal. Those who like quick paced thrillers will want to check out the work by John Nicholl. It’s one recommendation you’ll not regret following!

DI Laura Kesey knows that she can only do so much when it comes to victims of domestic violence. When she goes to see Sally in the hospital, Kesey says everything she can, though the victim is anything but convinced. However, there is a glimmer of hope, as Sally agrees to move to a domestic violence refuge, where she can be safe and live with other women who have been through some of the same experiences.

Back at the office, DI Kesey and her partner, DS Raymond Lewis, are handling the case of a body that was found on a rural Welsh road. It appears the man was run over multiple times, though the forensics lean towards it not being an accident. Using witness statements and some video leading up to the event, it would seem that the vehicle involved has been located, though it’s torched and left to burn. When the owner calls in the missing vehicle the next morning, Kesey and Lewis try to piece it all together, as they learn the victim has a long history of violence and abuse. Everything traces back to the aforementioned domestic violence refuge, where the women are able to alibi one another.

Within the facility, these women may have been through a great deal, but they are resilient. So much so that they have created The Sisterhood, a group determined to work to target abusers and offer them the ultimate punishment. They plot their revenge and make sure no one’s the wiser as their marks meet untimely deaths. All in the name of empowering women and keeping the scum at bay.

While Kesey and Lewis are getting nowhere fast, their competence is questioned by superiors. More victims emerge, all with ties to the refuge, but Kesey seems too quick to point fingers. With little to go on, Lewis tries his hand at extracting information his own way, which raises a red flag or two amongst The Sisterhood. Might his discovery of what’s going on paint a target on his own back?

As Sally’s attacker is released from prison and tries to confront her at the refuge, it’s high time she is brought into The Sisterhood, where she will be able to put this all behind her. After an initiation, Sally realises that this is not simply ‘girl power’ but a group of ruthless killers who will stop at nothing while abusive men roam the streets. Will DI Kesey arrive in time with concrete evidence to dismantle them, or will new victims fuel The Sisterhood’s continued bloodletting well into the future?

I have long enjoyed the work of John Nicholl, as he delivers some of the most chilling stories compacted into shorter novels. His pieces hit to the core and tie in some of his past work experience, leaving the reader wanting more, while also feeling the depths of despair some of the plots present.

DI Laura Kesey has been a central character in a number of Nicholl’s past novels, having risen through the ranks and honing her skills. While she tries to move from the shadows of her predecessor, Kesey has a style all her own that proves to be as gritty as any cop in such a series. Her new responsibilities have taken a toll on her family life, though Kesey attempts to juggle it as best she can. Focussed on the case at hand, Kesey proves to be a wonderful role model to her partner, even if he is not yet ready to accept her guidance.

Nicholl uses his dark plot to introduce a number of great secondary characters, all of whom enrich the story in their own way. From other coppers through to the unique group within The Sisterhood, each flavours the story and pushes the narrative in multiple directions. There’s a great sense of thrill, fuelled by strong characters in all aspects of the story.

It takes a talented writer to be able to write a dual narrative, where the reader can see the killer from the outset. Nicholl does this effectively, pushing things along and offering clues to the cops as they seek to assemble the case. The Sisterhood is a unique gang and one whose antics will continue until DI Kesey is able to cobble together enough for an arrest. With alternating chapters that explore the story from both sides, Nicholl keeps the reader abreast of developments and yet leaves the door open as to when the final piece will fall into place. Short chapters push the story along and the writing adds momentum to an already gripping piece. Nicholl has proven he is at the top of the genre and I can only hope he has many more ideas to keep his fans coming back!

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another winner. Wales has never been such a great thriller locale, though you seem able to bring it to life with ease!

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

Review: The Sisterhood

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

Mr. Nice, 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.

When I received the latest John Nicholl novel, I made sure to clear all other reading requirements to delve right in. His masterful use of police procedurals with a psychological twist allows John Nicholl to pull the reader into a piece they will not soon forget. When a young girl goes missing from her home, the father is the first suspect. Having stormed over in a drunken state the night before, his threats seem credible. However, that intoxication proved a strong alibi and he is soon struck from the list of possibles. DI Laura Kesey can tell this will be a troubling case, thinking back to the many stories her mentor shared before his passing. Kesey and her team take control of the case, though have few clues on which to build much of anything. The killer lurks in the shadows and has their own story, speaking of how young Lottie Weller may not have been a bad girl, but her mother was definitely in need of a lesson. While Kasey tries to juggle the increased panic of the parents with her own fear for a child at home around the same age, she must also keep a calm head, as the killer is goading her. A woman was apparently seen outside the house at the time of the abduction, but this seems a little too odd for Kesey to accept. Could there be a team working and how long do they have before the child is no longer a useful plaything? Chilling in its delivery, John Nicholl does not fail to impress yet again. Recommended to those who love a police procedural where the killer is known throughout, as well as those who have long enjoyed the work of John Nicholl.

There are few authors whose books I will stop in my tracks to fit into my reading schedule, but John Nicholl is one. I have long been lucky enough to read his work in an advanced capacity and devoured every piece before praising it to anyone who would listen. Nicholl has worked the ‘West Wales Police’ theme into most of his novels, and used a younger Laura Kesey before, but now hands her the baton. Kesey is well-suited to the role of protagonist, having learned a great deal as a cop from her mentor, whose demise left a great hole in her heart. Kesey balances work and home life, though some might wonder how effectively. She has her eye on the prize and seeks to get a handle on this most disturbing case. With a killer trying to make her look the fool, she is in no mood to have her team lose control of the case. Other characters help enrich the narrative throughout this piece, which has many twists and turns. Nicholl places all those who have a role in the story in their own spot, shaping dialogue and plot development with the varied personalities he chooses. The reader will surely enjoy all that he does throughout and the various perspectives that make the book all the better. The narrative and plot are strong throughout and keep the reader guessing how things will progress. This is surely harder in a piece where the solution has their own narrative perspective, but it is joining the two that makes things all the more exciting. Nicholl mixes shorter and long chapters together to create a forceful story that propels itself forward throughout. Those who have read some (or many) of John Nicholl’s work will see some repeating themes throughout, but this is a good thing, rather than being burdensome. I cannot wait to see what else John Nicholl has in store for his readers, but this one is not to be missed!

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another winner. I know I am in for a great (and quick) read each time I receive one of your novels.

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

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:

The Girl in Red, by John Nicholl

Eight stars

Master of the h psychological thriller, John Nicholl builds on a previously limited release novella ( that offers much bone-chilling excitement as the story progresses. Kathy Conner lives the most horrible life possible. An abusive husband who bullies her unremittingly with no one who will believe her, either the family she has regularly called or the police who turn up at the door. Married to Police Inspector Michael Conners, Kathy is sure that she will never rid herself of this monster, especially when he offers such a calm demeanour to the outside world. At her breaking point, Kathy begins concocting a plan as her only way out, though it will take all the patience she can muster. Never knowing if each night Michael comes home will be her last on earth, one day Kathy takes a chance in order to free herself of his shackles and punish him for all that he has done to her. While her plan seems foolproof from the outset, it will take all Kathy has to ensure its success. A great story that reminds the reader of how addictive Nicholl can be, especially when he tosses in a wonderful twist at the end. Perfect for Nicholl fans and those who enjoy a quick-paced psychological thriller.

I remember when I first discovered Nicholl on a whim and could not put the book down. Promising I would keep an eye out for any of his future publications, Nicholl kept me on his own personal radar. Each book built on strengths from the last and this piece fits perfectly into the flow and ongoing positive development of his writing style. The story builds on a few central characters and the emotional differences between them, namely Kathy and Michael. From there, it is the slowly evolving thought processes that Kathy exhibits that keeps the reader wanting to know how it will all come to a climax, even when a pitfall almost ruins her plan. The reader goes through all the ups and downs faced by an abused woman with the desire to flee, even when she finds herself under the thumb of the abuser. A mix of short and long chapters keeps the reader hooked and demanding more. With Nicholl’s past professional experience in this area, it is no surprise that he is able to write so seamlessly and presents the reader will a stellar story whose impact resonate powerfully.

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl for such a wonderful piece of work. I am truly blessed to be able to read and share your work with others and hope you have many more stories to come.

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

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:

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:

A Mind to Kill, by John Nicholl

Eight stars

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

After thoroughly enjoying his previous work, I jumped at the opportunity to read an early copy of John Nicholl’s latest work. Likely pulling on some of his past experiences in Child Protection, Nicholl tells a dark and somewhat macabre story that will pull the reader in, if only to learn whether justice is served by the end. When the Crown Prosecution Service declines to press charges after she is sexually assaulted by her ballet instructor, six year-old Rebecca Smith is left to fight with the demons that haunt her dreams. There is now a paedophile left lurking in the shadows and DS Gareth ‘Grav’ Gravel has no answers for the Smith family. Moving ahead seventeen years, Grav is now a DI, though some of his recent activity has left him hanging onto his job by the skin of his teeth. Fallout from his partner’s apparent suicide has just about pushed Grav to the brink. Perhaps a holiday in the Bahamas will rejuvenate him and allow him to reorganize himself. Meanwhile, little Rebecca Smith is now a grown woman, though the demons are still ever-present. She has secured a tech job within the West Wales Police Force in Caerystwyth, but her true passion is hunting for paedophiles who lure children online. Taking on various child personas, Smith is able to keep up significant banter with them, until just the right moment, when she lays a trap and has them come for a visit. Rather than an innocent child waiting for a ‘special friend’, Smith enacts the revenge she wished she could have done all those years ago; torturing, killing, and dismembering the bodies. When some of the body parts surface in a local body of water, new hire DS Laura Kesey must make sense of this, while Grav remains halfway around the world. Her initial investigation makes some headway, though how could she know that Smith is the fox in the henhouse, wiping out some key evidence that could close the case in short order. As Grav is summoned back early from holiday, he is confronted with a case that is not bringing in leads as swiftly as he might have hoped. Add to that, Smith makes herself known to him, laying on significant guilt for his past failures. Will it be enough to spur Grav on to catching this paedophile killer, or has the past all but defeated him once and for all? Dark and at times shocking in its bluntness, Nicholl provides the reader a free trip into those parts of society many hope never to encounter. Perfect for those readers who are willing to venture well out of their comfort zone and never to feel the same way about the vulnerability of children again, with a powerful ending to leave a lasting residue.

My current work in Child Protection has left me a little better suited to stomach some of the atrocities found in this book, but no one can be completely prepared. Nicholl has continued to impress me with his abilities, both in writing and storytelling. He uses some of his own knowledge and experiences, weaving it into stories of the most depraved portions of society. While some might try to shy away or candy coat, Nicholl thrives on telling it ‘like it is’, if only to pay respect to the victims and raise a red flag with the reader. The characters used herein show the various perspectives that are present in the world of paedophilia: the vulnerable child, the helpless coppers, the destroyed family members, and even the general public. Nicholl provides a narrative that is both full of despair for the victims and yet shows how an investigation might yield effective results, given the right break. While I applaud the Rebecca Smith character and how she might seek to enact revenge after her ordeal, I am slightly troubled how her childhood trauma might turn her into such a ruthless killer. I might expect her to be withdrawn and not fuelled by such hatred to the point of plotting numerous murders. Granted, I have not been through such an experience and Nicholl is sure to have a a better understanding of the mindset of such victims. If the reader is looking for a swift and happy ending, this is surely not the book for them. However, those who can handle a trip to the dark side, come join Nicholl on this unforgettable journey. 

Kudos, Mr. Nicholl for this stunning piece. It chilled me to the core and I am sure many readers familiar with your work will be just as interested (dare I use the word, ‘excited’?) to tuck in. Always a pleasure to see what you have to offer.