This is the sixth book in the Jack Caffery series and picks up about a year after book five left off. There are two main strands to this book, the first is the continuing story of DCI Jack Caffery and his search for a missing person (Misty Kitson) and the second is about a series of suspicious deaths in an asylum.
Where is it set?
It is set in Bristol (England) and the surrounding countryside. I was really excited at one point reading about a journey Caffery takes through Wotton-under-Edge and North Nibley because it’s where my brother and his family live and where we spent part of our holiday last summer.
Who are the main characters?
We see DCI Jack Caffery and Flea Marley from the police diving and search squad again, and the asylum part of the story centres around the staff and inmates of the unit, namely AJ, Melanie Arrow, Isaac Handel and a smattering of others.
How well is it written?
Hmmm I have a problem with this bit of my review because it was well written in the sense that it was grammatically correct and I couldn’t spot any continuity errors and so on, but I thought the two strands of the story were poorly executed. Each one of the strands would have made a good enough book in their own right and to try to combine them in this one did neither of them proper justice and the result was a very disjointed book that chopped and changed about too much to make it a relaxing read.
My overall impression?
I didn’t actually like this book, and it really does pain me to say that. I had it on pre-order for months because I loved the first five books in this series and was really looking forward to reading this one. It was very frustrating in its structure because the chapters were extremely short and alternated between the two strands of the plot, and I felt that Hayder should have concentrated on one or the other for longer each time.
I have read books before where there are two seemingly unconnected strands of the story in the beginning but then come together towards the end and I get that, but in this one the two strands remain totally unconnected right through it and it doesn’t make sense to me. The only thing that connects them is that Caffery has them on his work schedule at the same time, and that’s all. A very tenuous link and not worth stringing the reader out for.
I kept with it because I genuinely cared about what was happening at the asylum, and I wanted to know what Flea’s decision about Misty was going to be, but I was very disappointed with the way it ended. The asylum strand ended very abruptly and wasn’t that believable to be honest. AJ and Melanie just didn’t act in the way that they had throughout the rest of the book and their actions felt dishonest to the rest of the story really.
The Caffery/Marley/Kitson part of the story didn’t really move on very far from the end of the last book and so wasn’t worth writing about in this one. All it did was provide an unnecessary distraction from the other part of the story and I was extremely frustrated with its lack of progress. It would have been better to either a) complete that part of the story in a book in its own right or b) leave it out of this one.
The biggest thing that disappointed me and didn’t make sense was the whole Isaac Handel thread. He was a patient in the asylum having killed his parents as a young man but we are not told much about that other than by hints in the narrative. We are told that he made several dolls, or “poppets”, and as the title of the book is precisely that I would have thought that it would have been more central to the plot, and it wasn’t.
All those frustrations and disappointments together made this a very unsatisfying read, and I get the feeling that it was written with a publisher’s deadline in mind rather than producing a quality book where more time is taken over it. I also got the feeling that it was written for TV – shallow plot lines, one dimensional characters, short chapters that would fit between advert breaks and so on.
Will I read the next in the series?
I probably will do because I’m keen to know what happens next with Misty Kitson, and I would read it in the hope that the quality returns to the series that was evident in the first 5 books.
Would I recommend it to my friends?
Not really, no. It would be worth reading as a standalone book because of the separate strands, and because the continuing story is very thin it is followable, but it is just a poor effort overall and I wouldn’t want my friends to waste their time and money on this one on its own.
However, I would recommend the series because up until this one it was a great series with good characters and a decent overall narrative. You may want to read this one after the first 5 but only to see if the next one is any better.
Pam’s Rating: 3 out of 5