What the blurb says: “Darren Richards opens his eyes to find himself duct-taped to a chair with a crossbow pointing at him. Behind the crossbow is a hooded figure wearing a black-faced, round-eyed gas mask. The figure tells him what Darren knows: that he stole a car, drove it recklessly while under the influence of drugs and killed a woman and her baby. His solicitor managed to get the case thrown out of court so he has not paid for his crime. That, says the figure, cannot be allowed.
Darren turns to his right. Next to him are his girlfriend and their baby daughter. Both similarly taped to a chair, gagged. It’s very simple, explains the figure. Either you die or your girlfriend and child die. But someone has to pay. A life for a life. The choice is Darren’s …”
Tania Carver is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Every book is fresh and inventive, and as readers of the series will have come to expect, unflinchingly dark, creepy, and nail-bitingly tense.
The last book in the series – The Doll’s House – set the bar exceedingly high, but Truth or Dare boldly picks up the baton and continues to evolve the characters throughout another fabulous read.
The story starts with a Darren Richards being forced to make a horrific choice – his life, or that of his family. Right from the outset, the ‘Lawgiver’ shows just how serious he is about his mission to serve justice where he believes the criminal justice system has failed. Enter Detective Inspector Phil Brennan and his team – investigating what looks set to become a serial killer case in Phil’s new home of Birmingham. When the killer’s attempts to get Phil on-side with his crusade fail, the vendetta gets personal, and soon Phil and his team are very much in danger.
Meanwhile, Phil’s wife, Marina, takes a trip back to their old London stomping ground to consult on a case for her old team. When a suspicious death occurs after Marina’s visit, an old adversary makes a surprise return, putting in motion a chain of events that ends with devastating consequences.
What I especially admired in this book is the skilful way the author touches on issues of morality, social justice and economic deprivation in relation to attitudes and motivations towards crime, without ever becoming preachy. The characters feel real and fully drawn; the settings gritty, grimy and highly atmospheric.
The two cases, and the introduction of two highly individual antagonists – one male, one female – makes for some serious tension and a whole lot of creepiness!
The duo of Phil and Marina is, as always, a pleasure to read about. Both are strong, independent characters in their own right, but they’re also a great team and have a strong and enduring relationship (which is good, because this is an author who likes to truly put his characters in peril!). The way that they support each other, even when separated by geographic distance, makes for compelling reading.
Tightly plotted, with a rapid pace and twists that will blindside you, this is a super-moreish read.
[with thanks to Sphere for my copy of Truth or Dare]