Dead Scared, by Sharon Bolton

>> Saturday, October 21, 2017

TITLE: Dead Scared
AUTHOR: Sharon Bolton

PAGES: 384

SETTING: Contemporary UK
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: Second in the DC Lacey Flint series

When a rash of suicides tears through Cambridge University, DI Mark Joesbury recruits DC Lacey Flint to go undercover as a student to investigate. Although each student's death appears to be a suicide, the psychological histories, social networks, and online activities of the students involved share remarkable similarities, and the London police are not convinced that the victims acted alone. They believe that someone might be preying on lonely and insecure students and either encouraging them to take their own lives or actually luring them to their deaths. As long as Lacey can play the role of a vulnerable young woman, she may be able to stop these deaths, but is it just a role for her? With her fragile past, is she drawing out the killers, or is she herself being drawn into a deadly game where she's a perfect victim?

Dark and compelling, S. J. Bolton's latest thriller?a follow-up to the acclaimed Now You See Me?is another work of brilliant psychological suspense that plumbs the most sinister depths.
This is the second book in a series, following Now You See Me, which was a twisty Jack the Ripper-inspired mystery I enjoyed quite a bit, in spite of some flaws.

In this book, DC Lacey Flint, still recovering after the events of the previous book, is asked by DI Mark Joesbury to go undercover in a Cambridge college. An unusually high number of female students have been dying by suicide and, while the official line is that there's nothing to worry about (and that what Lacey is pretty much told), the numbers and the disturbing and grisly methods used have led to some concerns. Lacey is one of the few experienced police officers who looks young enough to be able to pass as a student.

It doesn't take long for Lacey to realise something is really wrong. And then the same things she's discovering preceded many of the suicides, start happening to her.

This one was a bit of a disappointment. It had a lot of promise. It's an interesting premise, super creepy and scary, and the setting is really well-done. Bolton is excellent at creating a vivid sense of place (however, this was not quite as fantastic as her Little Black Lies, set in the Falklands. I loved that book). Lacey is also a great character, with quite a bit of complexity.

So what was the problem? Well, for starters, that the plot required Lacey to make stupid decisions a little bit too often. For instance, at one point she goes off into the forest and finds a really creepy tableau, with a hanged creepy doll and a fox. She's investigating cases of people being terrified and pushed into suicide, and yet beyond reporting to Joesbury, she does nothing? Another one: she knows the precursor of the suicides is the victims having these bad dreams which include a conviction the next morning of people coming into their rooms. And yet when this same thing starts happening to her she kind of dismisses it and doesn't take protective actions? (e.g. seriously examining everything she consumes and making sure nothing could be slipped in her food and drink?).

I also found Joesbury a bit problematic here. He and Lacey had a difficult relationship in the previous book, but there's supposed to be this sort of chemistry between them. The thing is, I had to doubt he cared much about her, as his actions bothered me. Sending Lacey into a dangerous situation (and one he knows is dangerous) but only telling her it's just humouring a friend of a superior officer and that she's meant to just observe? No, sorry. And he seems much too concerned with lusting after Lacey, rather than with the disturbing things she's reporting.

Finally, I found the explanation as to what had been happening pretty unbelievable. I did not buy the motivations of the culprit(s), and it was preposterous that they would have been able to do what they were supposed to have done.

I will probably give this series another shot, since I did really like the other two books I read by Bolton, but this one was a bit of a dud.



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