Stolen Lives (Danny Sanchez #2), by Matthew Pritchard

Seven stars

After recently completing Matthew Pritchard’s series debut, I was left underwhelmed. I vowed to give this second book a try to see if it had that missing piece, some form of momentum. Danny Sanchez is back, steno pad in hand. He’s come to the local landfill to cover the story of a body discovered in the piles of refuse. There is a missing woman who fits the loose description and in a community where flashy news is scarce, this is sure to make some waves. Sanchez begins poking around into the life of Teresa del Hoyo, who has been anything but a model citizen in this strongly-Catholic community. A wild child in her youth, Teresa joined the Reds (communists) and has been speaking out against the Church ever since. As Sanchez takes some time to connect with his own mother, he learns a little more about the Spanish Civil War, remembering stories about its divisiveness and the destruction by the Franco nationalists. When a local cemetery begins having its headstones destroyed, Sanchez draws parallels to Teresa del Hoyo’s personal campaign to reveal something that has been covered up for too long. He discovers that the graves are all of babies born in a local clinic, many who were stillborn. The mystery only thickens from there, as it would seem that Teresa’s killer may have ties to a sect of the Catholic Church established to root out those whose message is anything but laudatory. However, the more Sanchez discovers, the more he reveals in print, making him a potential target. Could he know enough that his silence is the only way to stop the questions? Pritchard does well to drum up some interesting historic themes, though I am still not entirely convinced. Readers should give at least one of the two books a try and decide for themselves. They can serve as standalone works, making either a decent test subject.

The premise for this novel was as strong as the debut piece, with well-developed writing, but I felt the delivery was again lacking something. Danny Sanchez remains an interesting character the reader can enjoy, particularly as he shows a little more grit and journalistic determination. While he appears to be hot on the trail of the victim’s backstory and how it might tie into a mysterious killer, Sanchez proves somewhat lacking in his presence throughout the chapters of the book. Pritchard does tip his hand and offer a little Sanchez family history while discussing Spain’s move into a fascist state after the Second World War, though I would have liked more. Danny Sanchez needs more depth and while some could argue the book was too short to offer it, I ask, why not take the time? Others in the story helps push the plot lines along well, from Spain’s political history, strong Catholic connection, and the role the Church played in indoctrinating young people at a fragile time. While there were shortfalls, Pritchard’s writing did leave me wanting to know more about some of the historical aspects, which is definitely a plus. Pritchard story idea was sound and I suspect there will be many who love it completely. I am not sure if I want to take the Danny Sanchez experience one novel further, but I may return to complete the series to date in 2019. For now, I will let those who love the book offer their own forms of praise.

Kudos, Mr. Pritchard, for another decent attempt. I’ll wait and see if I am moved to read more, but I am sure others have helped create a strong fan base.

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

Scarecrow (Danny Sanchez #1), by Matthew Pritchard

Seven stars

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

When the publisher asked me to read this piece, I was taken in by the description provided on the dust jacket. Anything with a serial killer element is sure to bring chills up the spine and keep the reader connected throughout the journey. Danny Sanchez is a reporter for a small newspaper in a British retirement community in Spain. While covering an article about homes being torn down, Sanchez is shocked to discover that there is a body in the wall of one such residence. What makes it even more gruesome is that the body has been emasculated and obviously left for a period of time. After another body is found in a similar state, Sanchez notices the additional clue of face paint on the victim, which triggers something in his memory. Fifteen years before, Sanchez was working in the U.K., where a serial killer was stalking his victims and leaving them with face paint, as well as slashed genitalia. Sanchez returns to the U.K., where he knows the killer has been institutionalized. Might there have been a copycat killer, or could The Scarecrow have had an accomplice during the slayings? The closer Sanchez gets to answers, the more people distance themselves from him. Danny Sanchez refuses to stop until he gets to the bottom of this, even if it means uncovering a network of serial killers working in concert. The trouble is, without knowing how many there are, will impossible to tell just how to stop the body count from growing. Readers can expect some decent writing in this piece, though I am not entirely sure I found the chilling depictions I sought.

After reading this piece, I’ve come to discover that the premise for this novel was strong, its writing well-developed, but the delivery lacked a little something. Writing in this genre needs something edgy and sharp, though Pritchard has given readers some work with rounded edges. The gore and the mystery were well-paced, but I needed something that would keep me up well into the night and create worry about the bumps in the night. Danny Sanchez is an interesting character the reader can enjoy in their own way. His gritty journalism background is apparent throughout, as is his determination to get to the bottom of each lead he uncovers. While he appears to be hot on the trail of this mysterious killer, Sanchez cannot crack things wide open or place himself in a position that keeps the reader chilled and guessing. Others in the story offer place sittings to keep the story moving, though I am not entirely enthralled with many of those who grace the various chapters of the story. I will admit that Pritchard had a decent story idea and some great threads on which to build a darker and more ominous story, though it missed the mark. The hunt may have been on, but it was as though everything was discovered in light and sunny weather. I hoped for chills and can only hope that Pritchard’s debut novel was jitters and that he has a lot more in him for the next novel in this series. I’ll give that one a try and hope for the best, as everyone with potential deserves a second chance.

Kudos, Mr. Pritchard, for the attempt, but I really hope there’s more to come. Delivery is essential in the genre and I am eager to see if you have it in you.

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