TV writer/Executive Producer Matthew Arlidge made an impression at his first meeting with Penguin Books when he pitched seven titles of a new crime series. They took him on board and must have then hoped for a big seller with his debut publication. This they got. It was picked up as a Richard and Judy Summer Book Club title and established the author as one of the most exciting crime writers of the last few years and he has followed this title with to date another five featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace.
I was three-quarters of the way through before I discovered M J was a male writer. The use of initials and a female lead had me thinking Matthew might be a Melinda. It should make no difference but I realised I quite like to know the gender of the writer whilst reading. The autobiographical blurb in this debut is (deliberately?) gender-neutral. Is this some kind of marketing ploy? Does it actually make a difference to crime fans?
Arlidge certainly packs a punch with this debut right from the start. Helen Grace (a nod to Peter James’ Roy Grace perhaps?) has such a tough time with this case that it’s hard to see how the author will top this for her – surely every other case must be a breeze to solve after this one!
A female serial killer is abducting people in pairs and placing them in an abandoned building. There’s a way out for one of them- kill the other. Grace finds herself challenged professionally, through involvement with someone on her team and through leaked information as well as personally when she spots links between her and some of the victims. The crimes are cruel and chilling which makes this an edgy and compelling police procedural. Short chapters power the reader through the book. It’s unpredictable but I did feel the twists running up to the end felt a little rushed. There’s no doubt that M J Arlidge is a welcome, fresh addition to the crime book world and I’m looking forward to reading more.
Eeny Meeny was published by Penguin in 2014.