Out now from Bantam Press (Transworld).
Following hot on the success of her three previous crime novels (Sacrifice, Awakening & Blood Harvest), this latest from Transworld‘s S.J.Bolton is, if you’ll excuse the pun, an absolutely ‘ripping’ yarn.
Set initially in London, but with a plot that carries the story elsewhere in the country, NOW YOU SEE ME kicks off in gripping style with serial killer obsessive Detective Constable Lacey Flint discovering a woman dying from stab wounds beside her car, followed swiftly by the arrival of a letter written in blood. The police are all over the case, desperate to find and stop the killer from attacking others the moment that they realise they may have a copycat ‘Jack the Ripper’ back on the streets of London. The embarrassment of all those years of such a killing spree going unsolved is something that none of them, DI Dana Tulloch in particular, want repeated.
Links to the original Ripper killings at first seem a little tenuous to the investigation team, but Lacey knows her stuff when it comes to killers and the actions of the almost mythical London character and works to consult her colleagues, most notably Mark Joesbury, as to where the links are appearing and what is likely to happen next. This is to the extent that, on more than one occasion, her own possible involvement is questioned and she’s being observed from within the team she is working.
Emma Boston, a local reporter, passes a letter to Lacey; it’s addressed to Emma ‘Boss’ton – another reference the killer uses to hark back to the infamous ‘Dear Boss..’ letters penned by Jack the Ripper in blood to the police.
The characters in the book are first rate and, at tonight’s book launch, S.J. commented that whenever she’d been asked when she would write a series novel she’d always said it would be when she’d written characters she thought she could use in a series and that, with NOW YOU SEE ME, she’d now achieved that.
The book also has a tremendous sense of place (something that really un-nerved me as they were very familiar and sometimes local places) whether it be the London backstreets, a disused swimming pool in Forest Hill, or the wonderful Horse Market Place in Camden – all of these and other locations put you right in the centre of the action and peril, whether you want to be there or not.
The book is filled with some very nasty imagery at times, but we are talking about killings based on some of the most brutal murders ever to take place on London streets and I think all the gore where it’s present is justified. I was more disturbed by the descriptions of the gang-rapes which Lacey Flint is also investigating across South East London as part of a Sapphire Unit team – tough and powerful writing, but everything there for a reason on the page.
And, now I come to the twists, or rather I will just say there are twists aplenty and I wouldn’t want to spoil a single one of them for you. Suffice to say that I was constantly on my guard thoughout the book as I was thrown curveball after curveball, with the plot taking directions I certainly didn’t see coming. With it’s relatively short chapters, this is a devil of a book for making you thrash through the pages from one hook to the next.
Tonight saw the book launch event in Central London or, to be more precise, in Whitechapel and Transworld had laid on a real treat for the author and for those of us lucky enough to be invited along.
We assembled at Liverpool Street Station at just after 6.30pm and, grouped together, we waited for our guide to arrive – a guide to take us on a walking tour of Jack the Ripper’s London. Some time passed and we began to notice a dark clad figure looming behind the railings at the front of the station. He was carrying a silver lantern, dressed head to toe in black and was staring intently at our number through the rails.
For a while we all thought it was best we ignore this fellow -maybe he’d go away in a while. Besides, we also had another strange young man walking up and down the street shouting ‘Damien!’ at the top of his lungs at regular intervals to contend with – ah, London, how we love ya! After a while, Lynsey from Transworld approached the dark figure and asked him if he was Ben – our guide. Turned out he refused to respond to that name, he was now in character and was now ‘Frank’ (see pic).
And so, Frank came to join us, to stare at us, to unnerve us all, but most of all to entertain and inform us on what was a fantastic stroll around the locations of where Jack the Ripper had taken his victim’s lives. There were locations I had no idea existed along the way; the original Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital site just along from Liverpool Street station, an incredible alleyway off of Bishopsgate that felt like something out of Harry Potter and some amazing back of scenes architecture and old streets that busy old London town has hidden away from us all. The ‘Frying Pan’ public house relief could still be seen high above the more modern Indian Restaurant sign at one of the murder sites and I think we were all amazed to find a plaque stating the location of another murder site on the tour. We clearly had the best man for the job here, ‘Frank’ was excellent in character and, as it turned out, Ben was a really nice chap when ‘Frank’ went away again later in the evening and joined us for celebratory drinks. Whilst it was a glorious sunny evening to walk about in, I think we all secretly wished for a bit more darkness and maybe some old fashioned London Whitechapel fog to really set the scene and to make ‘Franks’ lantern seem a bit more of a requirement.
So, although at this point, I’d normally only be commenting on a book, on this occasion I’d like to make several recommendations.
Do go and grab a copy of NOW YOU SEE ME.
Beautiful signed 1st Editions are available from the fantastic new Goldsboro Books in London’s Cecil Court.
Do go and explore Jack’s London on a walking tour and..
Do also seek out the chance to meet S.J.Bolton and a lot of other great crime writers this July at Harrogate (see link below).
Thanks to S.J.Bolton for a fantastic gripping read and to all the Transworld team for such an entertaining and unique launch event – oh, and of course, thanks to ‘Frank/Ben’ too.
Click here to check out the fantastic and atmospheric trailer for the book over at Crime & Publishing’s site.
To read all about SJ Bolton’s books and her fantastic features on her blog about Jack the Ripper click here.
And, to book tickets to this year’s Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival to see SJ and a feast of other great crime authors, click here.
Keith B Walters