|Date Published||08 February 2018|
Scared to Death
A baby is found abandoned in an A&E unit. The police believe there is a possible link to a young man’s suicide a year before.
Nearby, when Captain Ben Callan is called in to investigate the suspicious death of a recruit, he is certain someone had tried to save the 16-year old. But no-one is speaking out.
Psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn, is finally home from her six-month tour on a Royal Navy destroyer in the Persian Gulf. However, there is no time to rest. She is called in to help Simmons and Callan on their cases, and to take on a patient who is at risk of taking his own life. And soon, she realises there are connections between the suicide, the suspicious death and her young patient. But can she save the taciturn lad?
This is the second book in the Jessie Flynn series, but is perfectly readable as a standalone story. Although the central character is clearly Jessie, written in the third person omniscient point of view, and with chapters devoted to Callan, Simmons and others, it is as much a police procedural as a psychological thriller.
Jessie is, unfortunately, one of a growing number of déjà vu psychologists carrying enough personal baggage to sink a battleship. If crime novels are to be believed, one could think that a degree in psychology/psychiatry carries a prerequisite of a troubled childhood/adolescence. Although I like this character, her backstory risks becoming a camouflage rather than a means of making her stand out from the stereotype. She is reasonably well rounded, and certainly flawed, but still I had that sensation of here we go again – another psychologist with an inability to communicate, with a non-existent love-life, and one offering no unique perception to convince the reader that she stands head and shoulders above all her fictional ‘colleagues’.
Callan is also cited as being outstanding at getting to the truth in his investigations, but the reader is not treated to much evidence of this. And Bobby is only remarkable because of his ridiculous nickname Marilyn. Obviously, in a triple-faceted case, there are bound to be many additional characters, but I did find myself flipping back through the pages at times to remind myself of who certain ones were, as some of them were not particularly distinct.
The plot has a certain individuality to it, although it would be more believable if the victims were part of a group of victims rather than the only three. And I cannot believe the behaviour of the perpetrator’s father. He destroyed my suspension of disbelief, and my pleasure in the story. However, his reveal came near enough to the end of the book that I finished it.
Although the backstory is important, it is, in places, slightly intrusive. However, the first couple of chapters, both backstory, are well handled, and sufficiently intriguing to draw the reader in. Description is average, but enough to give a sense of time and place.
There is an ongoing love-interest; a stand-off-but-would-like-to-hop-into-bed relationship between Jessie and Callan, which in the end is resolved a little too easily considering their inability to share their feelings with one another. In fact, the whole of the ending of this story is rather rushed.
That said, there is a good balance of introspection, dialogue and action which drives the story forward at a good pace. And although the perpetrator had a neon light flashing on their head from early in the book, this story has a few twists to keep the reader satiated. Scared To Death is perhaps not particularly memorable, but is good, solid escapism.
Reviewed 17 March 2018 by Kati Barr-Taylor
Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her ‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by translating, writing, editing and reading.