This is no humdrum parochial British police procedural – in fact, with all the pigs, blood, gore, kidnapping and brutality it’s more like Hannibal than Morse. Which of course snagged my attention at the get-go…
The gruesome abduction of a loner schoolboy is just the start of a deftly executed campaign of revenge against an oddball farming family. Plenty of people have very good reasons to hate the Rays – including at least one disgraced copper, whose DNA turns up in a most compromising location.
Author Wes Markin keeps you on your toes as his story ducks and weaves, landing sucker punches that you don’t see coming. The juxtaposition of calculated cruelty against the backdrop of small-town southern England is especially effective. One minute we’re sympathising with a DCI whose angry wife has banished him to the sofa-bed… the next we’re with a vengeful Valkyrie who’s snipping off fingers with pruning shears.
Although the police investigators, DCI That Bloke and DS Someone Else, were a bit too whitebread to make much of an impression on me, the dysfunctional Ray family were entirely intriguing. Not one of them appeared to be playing with a full deck of cards. A grandfather was plagued by alien abduction. He convinced his unhinged son to wait, shotgun in hand, for the little green men which had tragic consequences. Even the distraught mother of the missing boy – who only married into the family, fergawdsakes – goes outright OTT OCD while the weird stuff gets weirder.
Best of all, there’s an icily effective, malignant narcissist – an escort with a penchant for administering pain and punishment. Lacey Ray is a compelling character and her ‘Blue Room’ is a strikingly original invention. She brought a fresh (if deathly) breath of sub-zero air to proceedings.
The editing was sloppy here and there – wobbly grammar and strange sentence construction – and tighter attention to detail could’ve turned a good book into a great one. Yet again, I’ll remind authors that victims of crime do not press charges in the UK. Markin gets top marks for good forensic procedure; minus several million for basic legal processes.
It also appears that both Lecter and Luther must’ve been rattling around the writer’s mind when this book was brewing, and overt influences from both are apparent. That’s no bad thing: the result is a tense thriller with a couple of killer characters, and some truly unexpected outcomes.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
One Last Prayer For The Rays by Wes Markin is available at Amazon