What the blurb says: “DS ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is back and facing his most challenging criminal yet in unfamiliar territory. But tracking down a psychotic serial killer with the upper hand isn’t the only issue – it’s knowing who you can trust.
Consigned to a remote valley in the Lake District, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is getting used to a quieter life – a far cry from the bloodbath of his former division, the Serial Crimes Unit. But wherever Heck goes, trouble is never far behind.
Unknown to Heck, ‘The Stranger’ has returned. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, this prolific serial killer has found a new home. As a dense, frozen mist descends on the Lakes, The Stranger returns to his old ways, starting with two young women lost high on the hills. Only one girl is ever found – barely alive – but able to confirm Heck’s worst fears.
As The Stranger lays siege to the remote community, Heck helplessly watches as the killer plays his cruel game, letting off his trademark call before viciously picking off his victims.
And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck has no choice but to play ball …”
Heck has started to build a new life for himself away from the stresses and unrelenting pressure of the Serial Crimes Unit. He’s got a new woman in his life – Hazel Carter, owner of The Witch’s Kettle pub – and a keen and resourceful work partner in DC Mary-Ellen O’Rourke. Things are looking good, but that’s all about to change!
This is a rollercoaster of a read from the get-go. Using the beautiful yet remote setting of the Lake District to the maximum, The Stranger waits until severe weather descends, cloaking the community and surrounding hillsides in freezing fog. One by one, the killer picks off their victims – first those dwelling outside the main village, then becoming bolder – targeting police officers, cutting off power and telephones, and isolating the community from the outside world.
As the body count rises, Heck has to grapple with an added complication. DSU Gemma Piper – his previous boss, and former lover – was a member of the original team assigned to catch The Stranger before he disappeared ten years earlier. When she hears that the killer has returned, she travels from London to the Lake District, pitching up in Heck’s new life and bringing all the memories, and the tensions, from before with her.
Told through multiple points of view, the reader follows Heck as he tries to alert the residents to the danger in their wake and then, as the killer closes in, seeks to get them to safety; you also get a wider perspective of what’s happening in other parts of the small community through the eyes of Gemma, Hazel, and a number of other villagers (and victims).
The sense of isolation and disorientation caused by the fog ramps up the tension as the killer stalks their prey. As the loyalties and motivations of those close to him are called into question, Heck has to decide who he can trust, and who he can’t. If he makes a mistake it’s likely to be fatal.
Packed with atmosphere, and super-charged with action, this is a creepy, unsettling and suspense-filled read.
[many thanks to Avon for my copy of Dead Man Walking]