Emma didn’t know how long he hid, silent and unmoving, in the large Victorian wardrobe to the side of her single bed. She didn’t know how long he peered out, salivating and drooling, between the two heavy dark oak doors, and watched, mesmerised, as she slowly drifted into fitful sleep. She didn't know what time he pushed the doors open and crept towards her in the drab grey darkness of the night.
Detective Inspector Gravel finds himself floundering when a local nineteen-year-old university student is abducted and imprisoned by a sadistic serial killer, who has already tortured and killed five young women.
How far would you go to save your life?
Portraits of the Dead is without doubt John Nicholl's best and most chilling book to date. I was lucky enough to receive a very early review copy from the author.
Imagine yourself an insect trapped inside a sealed glass bottle with no chance of escaping. You know that your captor is watching your every movement from outside, licking his lips and planning the best way he can abuse and torture you for his maximum enjoyment... pretty terrifying no? This is what happens to Emma, a young student.
In the dead of night, Emma is beaten up and kidnapped from her students' lodging. Upon regaining consciousness she finds herself locked in a pitch-dark room with no windows. There she is held captive by a sadistic man, fed through a hatch in the door and spoken to through speakers. He observes her from an adjacent room, amusing himself at her suffering and nakedness, fantasising and fuelling his depravity, but that's not all... Who is this mysterious madman? What does he want? Why did he choose Emma?
For everyone else, Emma has vanished into thin air. Her distraught mother seeks the help of DI Gareth Gravel. Together with DS Clive Rankin, the police officers start the search for the missing girl. However they soon stumble upon a very grisly find. The bodies of five young girls, all with similar features to Emma's, are found buried in shallow graves. Is this the work of the same man that has kidnapped Emma? Are they too late? Has Emma been murdered and buried somewhere else? Will they ever find her? The police fear the worst...
The whole idea of this book - a sort of human zoo - is simply ingenious and blood-curdling. The story is very gripping and tense. We follow Emma inside the room, frightened, not knowing whether it's day or night, at the mercy of her captor and his sadistic fantasies, and on the outside we follow the police investigating her disappearance and the murders. I felt terrible for Emma, for being treated in such a horrible way. The book features a very disturbed individual with a warped mind and a sick hobby, but thankfully scenes are never too graphic.
Even though the same police officers appear in the author's previous books, this book can be read as a standalone as there are only vague mentions of a previous case. All characters are well-developed and realistic (well, hopefully there aren't many individuals like the madman in real life). There is one character in particular that in my opinion steals the show from the main characters. I really enjoyed the scenes where this character appears and I think it's brilliant. You'll understand to whom I'm referring once you've read the book.
With a fabulous cover, a clever original plot, great characters, non-stop tension and a very satisfying ending, I really enjoyed reading this nail-biting suspenseful book.
With thanks to the author for an ARC of this fab book.
John Nicholl's debut novel: White is the coldest colour, a chilling dark psychological suspense thriller, draws on the author's experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker. The novel entered the Amazon UK top 100 bestsellers chart after just 15 days, and became one of the 25 most read books on Kindle, reaching # 1 in British Detectives and Vigilante Justice. It also reached # 1 in British Detectives and Psychological Thrillers in France, # 1 in British Detectives and Psychological & Suspense in Spain, and # 1 in British Detectives and International Mysteries and Crime in Australia, where it reached # 10 of all books in the Kindle store. The gripping sequel: When evil calls your name, was published on the 31st of December 2015, and quickly reached # 1 in Biographies and Memoirs of Women in the UK, # 1 in Biographies and Memoirs of Criminals and International Mysteries and Crime in Australia, and # 1 in Violence in Society in the USA. Portraits of the dead, a gripping serial killer thriller, is available for pre-order from the 14, August 2016, with a 1st of September release date.