A SPLINTER IN THE BLOOD
By Ashley Dyer
William Morrow (June, 2018)
by Shirley Wetzel
After receiving a drunken phone call from her partner, Detective Greg Carver, Detective Ruth Lake, rushes to his home to give him a kick in the butt. She finds his seemingly lifeless body on the floor, with a gunshot to his chest. He reeks of liquor; there’s an empty whiskey bottle close by. Just beyond his reach is a 1911 Colt pistol, recently fired. Instead of immediately calling for help, Ruth, for reasons of her own, cleans up the crime scene and takes the gun away.
It’s only when she detects a slight sign that Carver is still alive does she call for help. She claims she found him clinging to life, leaving out the actions she’d taken before calling it in. Carver has been depressed, drinking heavily. In part it was because his marriage had broken up, in part because his case in apprehending a serial killer dubbed the Thorn Killer. The bodies of several young women have been found recently, their skin covered in tattoos crudely etched in with a thorn. The case became intensely personal. The latest victim, Kara Grogan, not only closely resembled his estranged wife Emma, she was wearing a pair of Emma’s earrings.
Carver is in bad shape, suffering from a blow to the head in addition to the devastating chest wound. He’s in a coma, his future unclear. Ruth stays close to his bedside, because she is worried about him, but also because she needs to be there when he wakes up. How much does he remember about that night, and her actions? Another detective is put in charge of his case, and Ruth is told to stay out of it. She can’t do that, too much is at stake. She had taken Carver’s personal files on the Thorn Killer, and uses them for her own secret investigation. Carver thinks the TK book the files, and is convinced he will be the next victim. The hole Ruth dug gets deeper and deeper.
When Carver does wake up, his wife calls Ruth first, as she had promised. He has almost no recollection of what happened that night. There are brief flashes of bright light, a loud noise, pain, and Ruth’s face looming over his. She says she was the one who called it in, but as time goes by he realizes she is hiding something from him.
A neuropsychologist, Laura Pendinning, is called in to help him regain his memories. His waking and sleeping minds are filled with vivid images, often violent and unsettling. He’s unable to tell what is real and what are hallucinations. He’s living in a nightmare and wants nothing more than to return to reality. The head injury has given him an odd new ability: he can see auras around peoples’ heads reflecting their moods. For example, when Ruth becomes angry, he sees the calm yellow aura turn to red. This will come in handy when he most needs it, just in the nick of time.
The two detectives enter a cat and mouse game with the Thorn Killer as the death count rises. The suspense builds to a terrifying level, with twists and turns and red herrings galore. You’ll be tempted, but do not finish reading this late at night. Believe me.
Ashley Dyer is the pen name of Margaret Murphy, the award-winning writer who has published nine psychological thrillers, including DARKNESS FALLS and WEAVING SHADOWS. Helen Pepper is a senior lecturer in policing at Teesside University. She has experience and expertise in crime analysis, forensic science, CSI, and the management of crime scenes. This is the first collaboration for the two very talented writers, and it’s a winner. I predict SPLINTER IN THE BLOOD will soon be hitting the top of the charts. Highly recommended.
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