Splinter in the Blood
Date Published01 March 2018
Price£ 14.99

Splinter in the Blood

by Ashley Dyer

Why is she standing over her boss with a gun in her hand? Will she leave him for dead?


DS Ruth Lake and DCI Greg Carver have been hunting a serial killer for a year. But the Thorn Killer, named for his barbaric trade-mark of covering his victims with tattoos, still eludes the Liverpool-based detectives.

Now Carver is fighting for his life. And Lake is hiding in her car the gun that shot him, along with Carver’s unauthorised files on the Thorn Killer. She is even wiping down door handles and any surfaces she might have touched. Tampering with evidence is bad enough as a cop, but even worse, and clearly premeditated, by a former CSI.

Neither Lake nor Carver realise the Thorn Killer is watching the detectives unravel. He is watching them drown in their lies. Can Lake and Carver own up to their deceptions before the killer strikes again?

The first chapter of Splinter in the Blood irked me. Written in the third person past tense (like the rest of the book) it introduces the reader to a mystery woman holding a gun. By the second chapter, when the reader finds out who the woman is, the first chapter feels like a clumsy con; a hook to drag the reader in. This, along with an overload of unnecessary information in the first chapter, was almost enough to make me close the book. But I like police procedural novels, particularly those steeped in forensics. I decided to plough on for a few more chapters. And I am glad I did.

Although I warmed to her in the end, I didn’t particularly like Lake; there are shades of the stereotypical hard-faced female cop, with the obligatory USP. In this instance, her unique aspect is her photographic memory for faces. How convenient! Carver, if he hadn’t had the misfortune to receive a head injury as well as the gunshot wound, giving him a strange perspective on his hospital visitors, would have been completely stereotyped (think alcohol and failing personal life), and uninteresting.

The plot is well-worn – find the elusive serial killer before he strikes again. And, as seems to be the fashion, we are subjected to a shocking modus operandi to make this killer stand out from the crowd. It is one which comes across as convenient, and without a deep-seated foundation.

I can’t quite decide if the seemingly unrelated crimes are page-fillers, or whether they are there to make the story distinctive. But apart from putting Carver in hospital, they didn’t really add to the plot.

Despite my negativity, Lake’s introspections and observations make this story a fascinating read. Although at times Lake’s investigative methods are overdone, the author clearly understands body language signs. It gives the reader insight, and adds texture to the story. And the forensic aspect does give the plot depth which makes it a winner for me.

I also like the interaction between Carver and Lake – there is toxicity and mutual disrespect twisted into their long-term reciprocated affection. It gives complexity to what would otherwise be mundane characters. In general, the dialogue is convincing, and although the voices are not particularly distinctive, this didn’t grate.

There is sufficient observation of the surroundings that the reader senses the light and dark of the city. I wouldn’t say I am much more au fait with Liverpool itself now than before I read the book, but the author did create atmosphere in the milieu.

The red herrings have swallowed neon lights, so the killer’s identity comes as no surprise. This made the last chapters drag somewhat, and I found the ending disappointing. But Splinter in the Blood is a fast, easy read with plenty of meat on the bones. This is a debut novel written with a polished voice and is one filled with potential.

Reviewed 14 April 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.