Dead Man Walking – Paul Finch
His worst nightmare is back…
As a brutal winter takes hold of the Lake District, a prolific serial killer stalks the fells. ‘The Stranger’ has returned and for DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, the signs are all too familiar.
Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, The Stranger murdered his victims in vicious, cold-blooded attacks – and when two young women go missing, Heck fears the worst.
As The Stranger lays siege to a remote community, Heck watches helplessly as the killer plays his cruel game, picking off his victims one by one. And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck must play ball…
I think that my blog may be in danger of becoming a sub branch of the Paul Finch Fan Club. Just after I started blogging I read the first of Paul’s Mark Heckenburg novels, Stalkers. I loved it and reviewed it. I quickly read the second book in the series (loved it and reviewed it). Then I found Paul had written a Doctor Who short story within an anthology I was reading (which also got a review).
Enforced break time…there were only three Heck novels and I didn’t want to rush the last one (The Killing Club).
Some months later my resolve crumbled (mainly due to the imminent release of the 4th Heck novel). I read, and loved, The Killing Club and now sit with the brand new – as yet unpublished – Heckenburg book Dead Man Walking.
Skip forward 48 hours and I am done. Dead Man Walking has been and gone…and I loved it (I rather thought I would).
Dead Man Walking opens some 10 years in the past and we learn of a murderer, dubbed The Stranger, who is attacking then butchering his victims. The police are on the case and a trap is laid and sprung.
Jump to the present and Heck is working in Cumbria – he has fallen out with his boss (Gemma Piper) and been transferred to a small police station where he will be out of everyone’s way. Summer has gone and the Lakes are eerily quiet, particularly when the fog descends.
Two girls get lost in the hills and Heck leads the search. Battling against the fog and the bleak weather he finds one of the girls and, despite the trauma she has experienced, she tells of an attack which sounds remarkably like the work of The Stranger – has he returned?
Heck calls in Gemma. In this fourth outing Piper takes a much more proactive role in the investigation than in previous stories. I love the Heck/Piper pairing. Given the history the pair share there is great friction between the two and this is heightened by their recent falling out and Heck’s subsequent relocation to the Lake District. For extra spice we have ‘The Other Woman’. Heck has been spending time with the local publican (Hazel), when Gemma and Hazel get together they do not exactly click! There are some great scenes between Gemma and Hazel adding a little light relief to the tale.
Light relief is very welcome as Dead Man Walking is a tense story. The dark foggy nights over a damp, isolated village makes a superb setting – a killer is picking off the villagers one by one and there is a real sense of claustrophobia as Heck, Gemma and Hazel struggle to keep one step ahead of the murderer.
Dead Man Walking was a terrific read, there was a constant feeling of peril hanging over the key characters. Finch introduced a sinister murderer with an almost supernatural ability to hunt down his victims and you couldn’t see how Heck would outfox him. Finally, the author’s use of the weather conditions and the remote locations heightened the tension and make the plight of the characters more vivid. An atmospheric thriller which kept me engrossed right to the last page – full 5/5 awarded to Paul Finch for Dead Man Walking.
Dead Man Walking is published by Avon and is available from 20 November.