A serial killer has been terrorising Lancaster for decades, longer than should ever have been possible. The police are baffled, eluded at every turn by the killer whose victims span generations. Speculation is rife among the true crime forums; is someone passing on their gruesome trade?
Every local mother’s worst nightmare has become Helen Summerton’s reality; he’s taken her daughter, Zoe. As the clock runs down so do her chances of survival. Can Helen unearth the secrets of the killer before it’s too late?
Title: Secrets of a Serial Killer | Author: Rosie Walker | Publisher: One More Chapter | Pages: 400 | ISBN: 9780008399962 | Publication date: 17th July 2020 | Source: NetGalley
Some crime novels strive for gritty realism whilst some just want you to have a good time. Rosie Walker’s ‘Secrets of a Serial Killer’ falls firmly in the second camp, but if you can suspend your disbelief you’ll have fun with it. It particularly harks back to the wave of such books that came out in the 1990s in the wake of ‘Silence of the Lambs’, so if you’re a fan of those this will be right up your street.
The book is set in Lancaster in the north of England and focuses on a series of disappearances of teenage girls. Contributors to an online true crime forum are linking these back to two historic serial killers, whilst the police seem to be doing little to investigate. Against that backdrop, the scope of the book is incredibly tight. It narrows in on two families who live next door to each other. Helen, an architect working on the development of an abandoned local asylum, and her teenage daughter Zoe live in one house. Next door to them we have a journalist and her son Thomas and visiting niece. The three characters I’ve named, along with the initially anonymous killer, are the central characters of the story, with the book told in alternating chapters from their perspectives.
I ended up liking this more than I expected to. That limited scope felt too small at first, but it results in a very focused and taut book. The killer is somewhat cliched, but their back story is intriguingly grotesque. The other characters are far more believable and easy to relate to. I ended up really caring about them and rooting for them in their fight to survive.
This is a book that might stretch credibility at times, but overcomes that by being extremely readable and very, very exciting. The use of locations is excellent, and really adds to the atmosphere, with parts of the story being genuinely creepy. For much of the story, Rosie Walker relies on the threat of violence, rather than actual brutality, to build suspense. This works well and means that when blood is spilled, it has added impact.
‘Secrets of a Serial Killer’ isn’t without its flaws, but it succeeds despite them as a result of good writing and relatable characters. I was quickly swept up by it and couldn’t stop turning the pages.