Alastair Gunn - My Bloody Valentine
"...Gunn's page-turning prose and his brilliant lead character are a winning combination."
When the body of a young woman is found brutally slain on Valentine's Day the press reacts with barely disguised glee. For DCI Antonia Hawkins, still recovering from the terrible wounds inflicted by another killer just two months previous, the pressure of another high-profile murder investigation could barely come at a worse time.
Battling her own physical limitations and under pressure from a new member of the team whose ambition to displace her is hard to conceal, Hawkins must discover not just who killed the first victim, but why - or watch helplessly as others die at the hands of a monster who has been labelled the Valentine Killer.
In Alastair Gunn's debut, 'The Advent Killer', a serial murderer stalked London at Christmastime. Now Gunn has turned his dark and disturbing imagination to Valentine's Day. I shudder at the thought of what he's got lined up for Easter.
'My Bloody Valentine' is a smart and pacy thriller. The plot and motive of the killer are original and the twist at the end is both shocking and dramatic. Gunn deals with mental health issues in a highly sensitive way; depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are thoroughly researched and the cause/effect is well-written and cleverly played out. The chapters told in flashback surrounding the character of Bull are touching, dark, sad, and disturbing.
At the heart of such a gripping story is our wonderful protagonist DCI Antonia Hawkins. She's recovering from the events of the first novel and is slowly getting back into the routine of being a detective. I would have liked to have seen Antonia's mental recovery mirror the mental health story involving the killer and victims to show her vulnerable side a bit more, as her physical recovery seems to get forgotten in places.
One issue I have with this book is the title and the cover. It suggests a killer targeting lovers or using Valentine's Day as a reason for murder. This is only briefly touched on before a Valentine's link is disproved and another nickname is given to the killer. This could easily have been marketed as a dark psychological thriller without the need for a tabloid-esque title.
However, Alastair Gunn's page-turning prose and his brilliant lead character are a winning combination. I look forward to book three and highly recommend the first two.
Reviewed by: M.W.