What is this about?: The search for a family’s killer, and their kidnapped young son.
What else is this about?: Max and Scout — this series continues the excellent characterisation with them as Tony Parson builds on their relationship and their little family.
Should you read: Oh YES.
Blurb: A murdered family. A dying serial killer. A missing child. DC Max Wolfe hunts a pitiless killer through the streets of London. By the Sunday Times number one bestselling author of The Murder Bag.
On New Year’s Day, a wealthy family is found slaughtered inside their exclusive gated community in north London, their youngest child stolen away.
The murder weapon – a gun for stunning cattle before they are butchered – leads Detective Max Wolfe to a dusty corner of Scotland Yard’s Black Museum devoted to a killer who thirty years ago was known as the Slaughter Man.
But the Slaughter Man has done his time, and is now old and dying. Can he really be back in the game?
And was the murder of a happy family a mindless killing spree, a grotesque homage by a copycat killer – or a contract hit designed to frame a dying man?
All Max knows is that he needs to find the missing child and stop the killer before he destroys another innocent family – or finds his way to his own front door …
Even the happiest of families have black, twisted secrets that someone is ready to kill for…
My deep love for this series steps from one little fact: Max’s own deep love for his daughter Scout, and their little family with their dog Stan. Read my review of Book 1, Murder Bag, here.
Given the genre and the types of characters usually in it, Max breaks the mould for me, as does this series. I mean, yes the case is filled with twisty goodness, and characters that made me squirm as much as I cheered on the good guys. But Max is fiercely devoted to Scout, even more so than his work. Often in this sort of genre, you’d expect the opposite, but every time Max thinks of Scout, and it’s often, it’s gloriously uninhibited and filled with love like any dad would feel.
I think I may be too used to reading and expecting a certain type of character in the genre, one where the personal is shunted off to the side or minimised for the benefit of the larger case at hand.
Let’s leave that for a minute: this is a book about family, about the terrors that lurk in the most picture-perfect ones, while the other kind, the ones that don’t look perfect really are – like Max and Scout, for instance. Max and his team are called on to investigate the murder of a family, and the kidnapping of the youngest son. The pacing is superb, moving fast and months ahead as no clues arise quickly. Max is consumed by this case, but the boy a little younger than Scout who has just lost his whole family. He also happens to find something good with the boy’s aunt, before secrets come to light that end that relationship. The case is deceptive, not in the OH MY GOD TWIST way, but in an intricately plotted way that draws you in one way, and sends you back out in another.
The writing is fast-paced, every word meaning something to the narrative as a whole. Tony Parsons has helped Max grow in this, into something comfortable with Scout and Stan. He also lets Scout see the terrors of her father’s job, illuminating a seriousness about her, in her childlike way, that creates a new dimension to her, to everything Max tells her. She’s an astute kid, or rather just astute enough in the way kids can be when it comes to their parents. It’s Max’s love and pride in her that reminds readers of the how the wealthy family who was killed was the same: happy; with parents who are proud of their kids and their family.
The mysteries in these series are always superb, there is no doubt about that. But I read for Max and Scout and Stan, and their little family trying to find their way. It’s as compelling as the crime plot in the end.
What books have you read that balance plot and characterisation well like this?