...it had happened the way he planned it and there was no use crying over a perfect plan. The one surprise was how well it had all gone. How easy it had been to manipulate people. Like pieces on a chess board they had done as he told them to. They’d moved where he told them to move and done as he’d told them to do. He felt powerful and it was a feeling he liked and could get used to...
He could create a vicious circle where the police could never catch up . . . and he was pulling the strings but not a single strand of his DNA was left at the scene. It was priceless.
Pure genius. He was a genius.
There were enough people in the world who were more interested in saving themselves than anything else that they would do as he told them to.
There were some fun times ahead.
So like the last DI Hanna Robbins book I read -- The Twisted Web -- so much of the success of Kill for Me comes down to the hook. Obviously, how well she delivers on the promise of the hook is as essential, but without that hook, who's going to read on?
As you can see above, it's a great hook -- our nameless "He" puts this single mother in a no-win situation. He's manipulated her daughter's school, compromised her communication with the outside world and has her daughter. All he requires her to do is kill someone, and then her daughter will be returned. Once he's done with her, he moves on to someone else. And someone else. And someone else. Each time, the lever he uses to pry his victim into action is different -- the life of a daughter, threatening to expose wrongdoing and ruining the life of a spouse as well as his victim, threatening to use falsified pictures of a child, and so on. Rather than risk whatever he's threatening -- "saving themselves" (or someone else) -- these victims will do "anything else. . . he told them to."
Murder by proxy. Spree killing by proxy, really. What starts off as killing for some dark purpose quickly evolves into killing because of the thrill gained by manipulating others -- being a puppet master who happens to have deadly puppets.
It's gripping. It feels plausible. It feels like a story in the news from next week.
Does Bradley deliver? Yes. Not in the way I expected things to go once I got to the quotation above, but in a way that was so much better. This is the third novel of Bradley's I've read in the past ten months. Each one had a fantastic premise, a hook as shiny and sharp as anyone could want -- and each time she uses that hook to reel in her readers in the manner of a seasoned pro. I'm not going to say more than that so I don't risk giving something away.
I wasn't crazy about the Epilogue -- it was an efficient way to wrap up what needed to be wrapped up, take care of remaining details, etc. If she hadn't written it up in a nice summary fashion like she did, it would've taken a chapter or two. But it felt rushed, too compressed and perfunctory. It did what needed to be done, but in a way that left me unsatisfied. It's a small thing compared to the rest of the book, but Bradley didn't do the novel any favors with that.
As effective as Bradley is with premises (and following through with them), she's great with the emotional core of the story and characters. I wonder from time to time if she doesn't give enough space to the "procedural" part of "police procedural" (in at least two of the three books by her that I've read). In this book in particular there were two lines of inquiry that I thought Hannah and her team could've -- should've -- done better with. Thanks to a recent binge-watch with my wife, I had visions of DCI Gill Murray eviscerating Hannah for leaving them untouched. But the reader will either not notice those points, or won't care, because Bradley will suck you into the innermost thoughts and feelings of the victims and the police investigating the crimes (and, in some ways, with the killer). I sympathized and empathized with each of these victims -- understanding why they felt they had no choice but to dance to the wicked tune he was playing, turning themselves into the kind of monster they couldn't imagine ever being.
The same is true for Hannah Robbins and her team -- you see the turmoil caused by this case, the way it gets under their skin -- as well as personal and professional crises/upheaval changes for Hanna, her right hand man, and others. I'm still trying to suss out all the various plotlines, character arcs and motivations when it comes to the police thanks to coming to this series so late -- but I'm very interested in the way a couple of them play out. One thing along those lines that Hannah seems to think has been resolved, has almost certainly not been resolved and will blow up in a book or two, and I'm very curious about it.
Whether we're talking about new characters or established ones, victim or police trying to help them -- Rebecca Bradley infuses these characters with enough genuine emotion, authentic desire and undeniable and relatable reactions to the madness surrounding them that she can do pretty much what else she wants and readers will follow.
In addition to writing compelling stories, Bradley seems to have many things to say about our mobile devices, social media, personal security and the way these three ideas need to be carefully reevaluated by ourselves and others needing some sort of court order (it seems) to reconsider the way we utilize this new technology.
I'm finding myself becoming a real fan of Rebecca Bradley and DI Hannah Robbins both, and this book is a large part of why. Compelling doesn't seem to be an adequate adjective for these books and this author. Fans of police procedurals should get their hands on these books right off. This would be a great jumping on point for a new reader, and a great maintenance fix for people familiar with Hannah Robbins and her brand of investigation.
My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.