I have, it seems, a thing for U.K.-set crime novels.
It started with Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which I hope to review once I finish the most recent installment.
My current obsession, though, is a series of mysteries revolving around a rookie cop — or, in Brit-speak, “detective constable” — in London.
We first meet DC Lacey Flint in S.J. Bolton’s “Now You See Me.” She’s working in the robbery division when she stumbles upon the latest victim of a Jack the Ripper copycat and suddenly finds herself working the case alongside newly appointed Detective Inspector Dana Tulloch.
Fellow investigator Mark Joesbury is immediately suspicious of Lacey (finding a bystander covered in blood will usually do that to a seasoned cop), but the pair’s relationship eventually evolves into a classic love/hate relationship.
Joesbury is handsome and rakish, Lacey is beautiful but troubled. Of course they’re as attracted to each other as they are annoyed by each other.
It’s hard to create believable romantic tension in literature, television and movies these days, because so much of it has become cliché: Silly obstacles keeping the couple apart, usually resolved by an eleventh-hour race — usually to the airport, in the rain — to declare true feelings.
But once you finish “Now You See Me,” you’ll understand why Lacey thinks they shouldn’t be together, and why it would probably be best for Joesbury, too.
The mystery kept me guessing until the very end, and the case is one that Lacey can’t shake easily. It looms large in Bolton’s follow-ups, “Dead Scared” and “Lost,” both of which I downloaded as soon as I finished “Now You See Me” (I read all three over the course of about two weeks).
In “Dead Scared,” Lacey, at Joesbury’s request, goes undercover at Cambridge University to investigate a number of suspicious suicides. The book has lots of moments that genuinely freaked me out (a fitting title, I guess), but the mystery just isn’t as compelling. I was less interested in whodunit than why they did it.
Tulloch pops back up briefly, and we also meet psychologist Evi Oliver, who appeared in one of Bolton’s earlier novels, “Blood Harvest.” Some references to Evi’s backstory were lost on me because I haven’t read it, but I don’t think it’s essential information in order to find “Dead Scared” engaging.
By the time we get to the most recent novel, “Lost,” Lacey has taken some much-needed time off from work but gets pulled into a new case: A serial killer is targeting young boys, and her neighbor, Barney, is afraid he might be next.
Like “Now You See Me,” “Lost” offers up a number of twists and turns that had me second (and third) guessing who the culprit was. There’s also some forward motion in the Lacey/Joesbury relationship — though I’m sure it will be followed by two steps back in the next installment.
Contact Casey Gillis at (434) 385-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.