It’s such a thrill today to be part of the blog tour for Dead Inside, the debut thriller by Noelle Holten, published by Killer Reads on 31st May. If, by any chance, you don’t yet have a copy of this one, you’ll find it on Amazon (kindle version just 99p – paperback to follow on August 22nd), Apple Books, Kobo, Googleplay, and also as an audiobook. My massive thanks to Sarah at Book on the Bright Side for including me in the tour, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
There can’t be many who are unaware of the reason why the blogging community is so excited about this book – quite apart from the fact that it’s such a cracking read. Noelle’s blog CrimeBookJunkie has set the standard for crime reviews for quite a few years now, her passion and enthusiasm for the genre making her everyone’s firm favourite, and she’s a friend to many of us: and, if you don’t know her through her blog, you might just recognise her as part of the wonderful team at publishers Bookouture.
I’ve never been altogether comfortable reviewing crime and thrillers, and I’ll always remember some excellent advice Noelle gave me: when I confessed how difficult I found it not to stray into story spoilers, she told me to focus on the character development, the settings, and how the book made me feel. I’ve always remembered that, and now (just sometimes) have begun to enjoy reading and reviewing thrillers again. And I most certainly enjoyed this one – Noelle, thank you, and let’s see if the advice worked…!
A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.
The killer is just getting started…
When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.
The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.
And he is Lucy’s husband.
Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?
And just a few of those wonderful endorsements?
‘Kept me hooked … excellent pace and a very satisfying ending’ Angela Marsons
‘An excellent read’ Martina Cole
‘A brilliant debut – gritty, dark and chilling. Noelle Holten knows her stuff’ Mel Sherratt
It’s always important to write an honest review, and I’ll readily admit that the world of domestic abuse and brutal murder is one where I rarely venture. But I do enjoy a well crafted story that makes me want to keep turning the pages while keeping me a few steps behind the pace in terms of outcome – and when a book is this very well written, the reading can only be a pleasure.
Dead Inside is the first book in a new series, and takes us inside the Staffordshire DAHU (Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit): it’s a new unit, and the story features the early days of DC Maggie Jamieson who will be the focus for the ongoing series. She doesn’t really draw your eye in this first book though – and I’m sure that will change as the series builds – but that’s mainly because of the proliferation of other strongly drawn characters who eclipse her a little.
Perhaps the most fascinating and engaging is Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – her professional front, dealing daily with angry clients and ever present danger, is in stark contrast with her home life, where she’s entirely cowed by the intimidating and aggressive Patrick, hiding his repeated violent attacks from young daughter Siobhan. The author handles that dichotomy exceptionally well – her own background brings a real authenticity to the workings of the Probation Service, and the terror she experiences in the home setting is palpable.
Maggie’s involvement turns from a single murder case to the investigation of a serial killer – the victims all known to Lucy, professionally or otherwise, and that accusing finger begins to point.
Other than Maggie and Lucy, there are few characters in this book that you will like – and it’s difficult to build much sympathy with the murder victims, however gruesome their ends. But every single character, however despicable, is superbly drawn. In many cases you might actually prefer not to get under their skin – it’s not a very pleasant place to be – but you have very little choice. I was struck by how authentic these dreadful characters were – while your sympathy might be lacking, along with your understanding of their behaviours, they’re never less than 100% real, and that’s quite an achievement.
The plot is real edge-of-the-seat stuff, as you’d expect it to be – with all the blind alleys and false trails that only add to the tension. I’m useless at predicting endings, although I did with this one – but only because it had to be one of the half dozen people I’d put in the frame, just in case I’d got it wrong.
I might not return for the rest of the series – I don’t think my nerves will take it – but I must say that I thought it was a really exceptional first novel. I suspect that future outings for Maggie and her team will be compulsory reading for the many fans of the genre – an excellent read, and a writer with real talent.
About the author
Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.