Monday, 20 February 2017

Book Review: THE KILLER ON THE WALL by Emma Kavanagh

The Killer On The Wall by Emma Kavanagh

Author: Emma Kavanagh
Random House UK, Cornerstone
February 2017
Expected publication: 20 April 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

The first body comes as a shock

The second brings horror

The third signals the beginning of a nightmare

When fifteen-year-old Isla Bell finds three bodies propped against Hadrian’s Wall, her whole world falls apart. In such a close-knit community, everyone knows the victims, and the man who did it.

Twenty years on and Isla has dedicated her life to forensic psychology; studying the brains of serial killers, and even coming face to face with the convicted murderer who turned her world upside down. She is safe after all, with him behind bars.

Then another body appears against the Wall.

And another.

As the nightmare returns and the body count rises, everyone in town is a suspect.

Who is the Killer on the Wall?

My thoughts:

“It began with the bodies.”

Twenty years ago, a serial killer brutally murdered 6 people in the small English town of Briganton, splitting a community and injecting terror into the everyday lives of the town’s inhabitants for six long weeks. When the perpetrator, Heath McGowan, was finally apprehended by the Detective Sergeant Eric Bell and convicted of the killings, everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief, but the damage had already been done. Some residents chose to move away, scarred by the black cross that forever marked Briganton as the hunting grounds of “the killer on the wall”, for the way he positioned his victims against the historic remnants of Hadrian’s Wall. Others dug in their heels and chose to stay, refusing to let the killer win. Isla Bell, who was the girl who discovered the first lot of bodies on her morning run, went one step further: in her career as forensic psychologist she now dedicates herself to scanning the brains of psychopaths to discover if there are common abnormalities which set a person on the path to becoming a murder machine. As part of her project, she has encountered the worst sadistical killers mankind has ever produced. Including Heath, who still holds a special dark place in her heart, and who is the 13th convicted killer to undergo this process.

“Lucky number 13.” Isla agreed.

Only that it turns out to be anything else but lucky for the community of Briganton. One day after Heath’s MRI scan, another body is discovered seated against Hadrian’s Wall. The murder has the same MO as the original killings. Is it a copycat, or a domestic argument gone wrong? When the body count mounts once again, the residents’ worst fears are confirmed – the killer is back. But how is this possible, when Heath is still in prison? Is there another killer amongst them?

I have read and enjoyed every one of Emma Kavanagh’s books, and this one is no exception. Taut and twisty, this thriller will take you on a dark journey into the minds of psychopaths, and those who fight them. With her background as a police and military psychologist, Kavanagh’s characterisations are spot on, which makes for an interesting reading journey as you discover that in this book, you cannot really trust anyone or anything. A constant undercurrent of threat and menace is maintained by the prospect of a killer living amongst a small, peaceful community, preying on random victims until no one is safe in their homes any longer. What makes a ruthless killer tick? And would we recognise one if we saw him/her? It could be your friend, your neighbour, your partner, your child. A truly scary premise, skilfully explored by a writer who clearly knows what makes people tick – and what keeps readers reading!

I particularly enjoyed the character of Iraqi born Detective Constable Mina Arian, who I felt was more approachable than the somewhat aloof Isla, and whose persistence in exploring every detail of the case finally brings some answers. Whilst some readers may find the end shocking, and some may have had their suspicions, I appreciated how neatly all the threads came together, which again is a credit to the author’s skill in weaving an utterly compelling mystery and one that may make you lock your doors and keep you inside at night. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 


“Generally, people are stupid. We look for whatever we expect to see.”

“But then, wasn’t that the thing with serial killers? Weren’t they all, when you looked at them, perfectly normal? Right up until the monster in them was unleashed?”

“What was it about parents that, even when you were thirty five and married and even though you lived your life right up against the most dangerous men the world had to offer, one word and you could be catapulted backward in time until you were small, vulnerable again.”

Other Books I enjoyed by the the same author:

Click on cover for details:
Falling Hidden The Missing Hours

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