A great thriller full of surprises
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 January 2022
I've really enjoyed getting to know DI Barton and his team over the course of this series. Using his own knowledge of the justice system, and drawing that together with some very cunning bad guys and some rather inventive methods of dispatch, Ross Greenwood has created a series that entertains and amuses, as well as packing each of the stories with a blend of character, mystery and, as in the case of this book, true emotion. With The Cold Killer, not only are we treated to a rather memorable opening scene, but also a story which, for Barton amongst others, is a real blend of the professional and the personal. This is a story of family - both the good and the bad - but it is most definitely the bad that dominates and gives the book that real edge.
As ever with this series, a number of the scenes are told in first person perspective from the point of view of one of the books key antagonists. It is fair to say that there is no love lost between this person and DI Barton, but as you might expect, this voice remains anonymous for a very long time. Nothing unusual in that. Most mystery or thriller books like to keep the 'bad guy' a secret. But there's a slight twist in this tale. The list of suspects really is finite. And already behind bars. A large proportion of the story takes place in prison, where any number of people could have cause to hate Barton, but to hate their fellow inmates more. It adds an interesting element of mystery to the story. The killer - or killers perhaps - remain in plain sight throughout, but even though we are travelling through the narrative from their perspective, we still don't have a clear view of who they are, or what they may be capable of.
I. really do like the character of DI Barton and his team, principally his Sergeants, Shawn Zander and Kelly Strange. They work really well together, mostly, a brilliant unit that fire off each others ideas and you get a great sense of authenticity from them. The banter that flows between them serves well to offset some of the tension of the investigation and with a number of the key suspects already known to the team, you know it's going to be a challenge to identify exactly whodunnit. But for all the professionalism and banter, there is a more serious side to this story for Barton, with the author exploring a topic surrounding Barton's family which is very relevant and which a number of readers will no doubt identify with, as he deals with his mother's rapidly declining health.
The motives for murder in this novel are made clear quite early on, and the investigation touches on some very dark subjects that are handled in a way which is careful and respectful to victims of such violence and abuse. Part of the story takes place in a secure unit within the prison that houses the men. convicted of sexual offences, so it is fair to say that it is hard to be sympathetic in any way towards the victims. It also makes the potential list of suspects is vast, from victims to extended families, to people who simply take offence to the crime itself. There is a kind of hierarchy of crime within the prison, and it is safe to say these men are isolated from the rest of the population for a reason. But even with the care taken by the author not to graphically or gratuitously present the violence, there were scenes in which the casual and unapologetic nature of the abusers really made the skin crawl and the anger bubble. Not enough to turn you away from the page, more to draw you deeper in, waiting to see how far down the payback checklist the killer is able to get.
Fast paced, packed with tension and with brilliant characters I have really found myself increasingly attached to, I love the feeling of authenticity from these books, and the sense of mystery that keeps be guessing right to the very last page. This book isn't just about revenge. There is a sense of redemption and of new beginnings, as well as some sad farewells. Most of all it was thoroughly entertaining, making me smile and scowl in equal measure. If you are looking for some great Detective fiction for your next read. Look no further. The DI Barton series is definitely recommended.
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