Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Book Review: LIKE THIS, FOREVER by S. J. Bolton

Like This, For Ever by S.J. Bolton

Title: Like This, For Ever (Lacey Flint #3)
Author: S. J. Bolton
Read: June 25 - 28, 2013

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Keep telling yourself it's only fiction... As you read this heart-hammering thriller from the queen of London's crime scene.

Bright red. Like rose petals. Or rubies. Or balloons. Little red droplets.

Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved ... And no chance that she can stay away.

Keep telling yourself it''s only fiction.

My thoughts:

Bolton has done it again – created an unputdownable psychological thriller which had me hooked from the very first page. Featuring the multi-layered plot, flesh-and-blood characters and seamless flow of storyline we have come to expect of Bolton’s work, this is the kind of book you should only pick up when you have plenty of time to spare – because it is impossible to stop reading!

Like This Forever picks up where Dead Scared left off. Lacey Flint, still licking her wounds from her experiences in Cambridge, has seconded herself away in her little London flat, taking sick-leave from her role as police officer and refusing to answer DI Mark Joesbury’s concerned phonecalls. In the meantime, London is reeling from a spate of child murders – four ten-year-old boys have been abducted and found dead on the shores of side arms of the Thames a few days later. There is no evidence of sexual abuse or any other motive, and police are at a loss of suspects. Lacey’s neighbour, eleven-year old Barney, has his own interest in the boys’ murders – not only has he discovered links between their disappearances, but he is also being stalked by a person on facebook who seems to know a lot about the boys’ murders before anyone else does. When his own enquiries uncover gruesome evidence which may be too close to home, it is Lacey he turns to – unwittingly involving her in the investigation and putting both their lives in danger.

As with Dead Scared, in Like This Forever Bolton introduces a new character into the Lacey Flint series, this time the fresh voice of eleven-year old Barney Roberts (who first appears in Bolton’s short story IfSnow Hadn’t Fallen). Seeing the world through Barney’s eyes made for an interesting perspective, and I loved putting myself in the shoes of a child for a while, especially one as quirky and unusual as Barney. Bolton’s familiarity with children of that particular age-group shows (she has a son the same age), and Barney is one of the most engaging and interesting child-protagonists I have encountered for a long time. And whilst Barney’s gang brought back memories of reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five as a child (who hasn’t?), the book’s dark themes are definitely adult fare. Saying that, despite the sinister themes explored in the novel (and as usual Bolton does not pussyfoot around when describing scenes of violence and death), I thought they were handled with sensitivity and insight into the effects of trauma on young children.

I was afraid that after enjoying Bolton’s rural backdrops I would be disappointed in a London setting. Far from it – with her usual flair Bolton unearths the scariest, creepiest city locations and uses them to bring out every reader’s worst fears. A rickety houseboat on a muddy river, deserted factories, dilapidated Victorian mansions, tidal creeks and dark alleys – yikes, it brought out the goosebumps! Exploring some of these locations through the eyes of a child was a clever idea. Don’t we all have creepy childhood memories of sneaking into forbidden places in the dark (well, my generation anyway)? Again, as mentioned in my last review, I held my breath A LOT throughout Bolton’s latest work, whilst the innocent tapping of tree branches on our roof suddenly took on a menacing air. This was one time when I regretted being a fast reader – trying to meter out the enjoyment as long as I could, using the book as reward for a hard day at work, limiting myself to a few chapters at a time. Who was I kidding? I caved in almost immediately, devouring the book like an alcoholic demolishing the last bottle of vodka with a defiant “oh stuff it” thrust of the chin before burrowing into my doona and settling in for a night long read-a-thon.

The more I get to know Lacey, the more of an enigma she becomes and by now I am thoroughly intrigued. With a passionate encounter between Flint and Joesbury inevitable at some stage (surely?), I am very interested to see how these two will be able to overcome the deep dark past shadowing Lacey, driving her to the destructive behaviour she is demonstrating in Like This Forever. Somehow I cannot see her fitting into Joesbury’s ready made family idyll – but we will have to wait and see, won’t we? Which brings me to the worst part of having finished the novel – the long wait for the next instalment!

Again, as with Bolton’s previous works, the plot in Like This Forever is multilayered, cleverly constructed and impossible to predict. There is a terrible “oh no!” moment close to the end, when the twists take a terrifying direction, but still the final resolution was a total surprise. And whilst I knew that my own theories would surely be wide off the mark, since my imagination is no match for Bolton’s clever plotting, I still harboured many different theories and hungrily soaked up clues – only to be proven wrong of course.

To cut a long review short - another five stars to a writer on top of her genre! I cannot wait to read the next instalment in the Lacey Flint series (this is a diplomatic way of saying – come on, hurry up and get writing!). Bolton firmly stays cemented on my list of favourite writers, with three of her novels on my list of “best reads” in 2013. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and whilst it is possible to read it as a stand-alone novel, why deny yourself the pleasure to start at the beginning and read all three?

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