Are you the person you want to be?

While Steve Mosby’s ‘The Nightmare Place’ is primarily a crime thriller focused on the hunt to catch a violent serial offender, it has quite a strong tilt towards self judgement and self assessment, which I found interesting.

DI Zoe Dolan could have turned into a criminal herself, if it weren’t for the gentle guiding hand of an older male police detective, and as her mentor nears the end of his life, she finds herself reflecting on her own approach to her community and her history.

But I suppose I really should start with the crime element of the crime thriller!

What’s it about?

The ‘creeper’, a violent predator who attacks glamorous single women at home in their beds, is escalating.

DI Zoe Dolan and DI Chris Sands are part of the police team hoping to catch him before he can cause any more harm.

They don’t know who he is, how he accesses his victim’s homes, or how he selects his next victim.

Meanwhile Jane Webster begins volunteering for Mayday, a confidential helpline for troubled people. Jane has been trained to handle SIPs (Suicide In Progress) and sex calls, but her training hasn’t prepared her to listen to a killer confess…

Is the Mayday call a hoax or is this the clue the team has been waiting for? Instead of solving the case, this clue might just make life even more frightening for the killer’s vulnerable victims.

What’s it like?

Violent. Reflective. Creepy.

Expect a tidal wave of violence against women, who seem to exist in this story primarily to be attacked by men. I mean, I understand that the storyline kind of requires that, but even Jane, our timid Mayday volunteer, is trying to quieten Daddy’s voice in her head as he sneers that she “can’t do that”. Zoe’s old mentor is the only decent male character in the whole book, though to be fair DI Sands seems perfectly harmless.

Mosby is a good writer and I really enjoyed many of his linguistic flourishes, like this one:

‘As a whole, it looked more like an object than an actual home: something predatory that had seen a house once and was pretending to be one.’

I read that several times over and still love that image. A good writer can grip me where the plot doesn’t quite, and I think that’s what happened here. I enjoyed Mosby’s written style and the contemplative parts of the narrative, I just wasn’t that interested in the actual story. I could guess who the culprit was quite early on and although he is certainly given enough fleshing out to be a convincing villain, I have to confess to being fascinated by the psychology of villains, and my craving went unsatisfied here.

That said, Steve Mosby is a big fan of horror, and this book certainly horrifies. A woman should be safest in her home, in her bedroom, when she’s alone, right? I’m sure that would be true, if she were really alone…

Ultimately, it’s a decent read with good closure.

Final thoughts

The opening chapter made my heart stop. Honestly. If you’re female and want to start reading this at night, in your home, alone, my advice would be DON’T – not unless you want to find yourself sleeping with the lights on and a weapon stashed nearby! Start reading in the daytime, and be ready to decompress before trying to sleep.

There is plenty of violence described in the book, but nothing unnecessarily gory or gruesome. I didn’t need to take a break from any of the descriptions.

This is a good, solid police procedural, though Mosby does seem to have a slightly irritating habit of just leaping into police interview scenes without us knowing why the suspect is there. I suppose this is all part of the suspense building, but I just personally found it a bit irritating.

I have read some criticism of the ending, but think it is sufficiently satisfying and psychologically plausible enough. My bigger issue is the whole ‘how does he get in?’ debacle. I mean, honestly, the police didn’t consider that solution once until presented with it? Where are their policing qualifications meant to be from?

Minor niggles aside then, I really enjoyed reading ‘The Nightmare Place’ and look forward to reading another book by Steve Mosby.

‘The Nightmare Place’,
Steve Mosby,
2015, Orion Books, paperback

I found this book at the delightful crimefest18.