Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch
It’s time to finish what he started…
A young girl is snatched in broad daylight from outside her school and later found brutally murdered and hanging from a tree.
When recently retired San Francisco Police Inspector, Bob Farrell, sees this on the news, he realises his worst nightmare has just come true. The same brutal killer a government agency stopped him from putting away twenty years before is once more on the loose.
As the killer wreaks a trail of blood and destruction across North America, Bob Farrell teams up with rookie cop Kevin Kearns and sets out to track down their lethal prey.
But Farrell & Kearns are not playing by the rules any more than the killer is, and soon the FBI have all of them in their sights…
The bulk of this novel is set in the late 1980s and this gives the story a refreshingly uncluttered air. With not a mobile phone or Internet connection in sight, this is a proper old school police procedural. No country-wide database searches here, well not ones that would give an immediate response anyway. Farrell and Kearns have to rely on chasing up leads the old fashioned way and actually visiting the locations where the might find the clues that they are looking for.
The burgeoning partnership between Farrell and Kearns is one of the novel’s highlights. Bob Farrell has many years’ experience and you quickly realise that retirement just isn’t working out for him. He’s haunted by ghosts of the past. He can’t give up trying to track down those who escaped justice in the past. Farrell’s personal habits are terrible (basically he’s a chain smoking, near alcoholic) and his behaviour is verging on the curmudgeonly. He’s a platinum rogue, never letting a rule or regulation getting in the way of getting the job done. I couldn’t help but like him, he all but radiates experience and ability as an investigator. Underneath his shabby exterior there is a razor sharp intellect that misses absolutely nothing. By contrast Kevin Kearns is almost Farrell’s polar opposite. Young, motivated but still wet behind the ears. He often acts on instinct and this doesn’t always serve him well.
You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that the relationship between the two men isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before, but it is handled extremely well. A surly older mentor taking a young protégé under his wing, both learning to get along while solving the crime is hardly new ground, but Lynch has a flair for character. There is clear evidence of the growing respect they feel for one another, it shows in the constant back and forth of their conversations. They quickly build up a rapport and the reader is on hand to see all this unfold.
Scattered throughout the narrative there are a number of flashbacks that uncover the genesis of the killer that the duo are tracking. The reader gets to discover the series of events that created a monster. This killer is utterly remorseless, a genuine sociopath. He’s like a machine, this is a beast with a mission. Each new chapter allows Lynch to further explore what compels the killer’s actions.
I feel that I should offer a small word of warning. There is every chance that some may find this book too dark for their tastes. A story involving the murder of any child is never going to be an upbeat event. That said, Lynch manages to tackle a very difficult subject in a thoughtful manner. His writing very effectively captures the shock of the crime as well as fall out of its aftermath. You can always tell when an author is on the right track. If you find yourself holding your breath as a scene plays out.
The final inevitable show down between the killer and the authorities is very impressive. I don’t quite know how Lynch managed it but things get even darker than before as the novel morphs from straight crime into something closer to psychological horror. This unexpectedly grim denouement rounds things off perfectly.
Wounded Prey is published by Exhibit A Books and is available now. This is a great debut and I certainly look forward to more.