A man's body is found in an empty house.
His heart has been cut out and delivered to his wife and children...
Publisher: Penguin Books
Book Links: Goodreads
After M.J. Arlidge's first DI Helen Grace novel, Eeny Meeny, my hopes were high. Here is an author whose promise and potential has no limit, and I'm pleased to report after finishing this entry that, that's more the case than ever. Pop Goes The Weasel is an amazing sequel that is on par with its predecessor: Smart - extremely smart - tantalising and filled to the brim with a gruesome and thrilling story, characters so complex they feel real and writing that is fully immersive. By the end you are definitely one happy reader, even if a bit shell-shocked by the book's story. Mr Arlidge has cemented himself as an author I will be keeping my eyes thoroughly trained on.
Detective Inspector Helen Grace is still reeling from her last big case, and the consequences that came with her saving the day.
Once private and controlled, Helen's life has been broadcast to the public, and now she's no longer in control.
What doesn't help is a new killer on the loose. A terrible new threat that's killing men and delivering their hearts back to the people that knew them.
And Helen has no idea why.
It's time to get to work, but Helen's facade is cracking, and she no longer knows whether she can keep her private life from mixing with her work; and if she can't, she could lose everything...
Pop Goes The Weasel is going to have all of your attention. With Eeny Meeny, Mr Arlidge created one helluva story, with the sort of uniqueness that's hard to find. And yet, this entry does it with gusto. It's clever and fantastically plotted. I truly couldn't make a single judgement on what was happening. Information is thrust at you to decipher, and then before you know it, it's melting away to be replaced by contradicting evidence. Only when everything aligns itself to form the answer, you gasp as if you should have known, because it all makes absolutely perfect sense. It's a great experience, one I can't wait to find in the next novel. (No pressure Mr Arlidge.)
Like the inside of a delicious looking cake, the characters are complex and fascinating. New layers are added to our already deep cast, and the journey is hard to forget. Our main character, Helen Grace, is a refreshing heroine in a genre filled with them. She hates herself for things that aren't her fault, and even when her opposition is almost unbeatable, she straps on her armour and heads off to battle anyway. She's tough, intelligent and unshakably moral, even if she isn't always following the rules. The rest of the cast also fill out nicely, with some heartwarming moments and some completely chilling ones. They're as unique as the stories the author creates, and deserve as much praise as they can be saddled with.
The writing is good, and the pacing is clever. It starts off a little slow - well, there are two deaths within the first fifty pages, not really spoilery, it is a crime/thriller people - but think of it like a roller coaster, that slow ride up the tracks filled with anticipation and terror, and then you're plunged straight through the air. It's that, only on steroids. While I had no problem falling for the book right from the start, I have seen others who've faltered because of this, so heed my advice, persevere.
One thing that does give me pause - although it isn't something that feels intentional, so I haven't detracted any stars - and it's something that's been on my mind with a lot of this genre: The depiction of men and women. Not only with this book, but other thrillers, men are repeatedly shown as liars and adulterers without any redeeming qualities - not all, but enough - while the women by majority are viewed as victims and entirely justified in their heinous actions. Again, this doesn't feel deliberate, it's just something I picked up; something I hope is switched once in a while. Men can have reasons, and women can make excuses.
Other than that, it's a read I'll remember, and I hope whoever picks it up enjoys it as much as I do.
Previous Instalment: Eeny Meeny
Next Instalment: The Doll's House
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