Browsing round the library the other day, a seriously dangerous occupation which should definitely carry a health warning, I came across a book by an author I hadn't heard of before but which had a recommendation on the front by Sophie Hannah.
Scary, tantalisingly unpredictable and very, very hard to put down.
As Sophie Hannah is one of those few writers whose works I automatically read, I thought it was worth a risk and took Ruth Newman's first novel, Twisted Wing, home with me. It was a good move.
Set in the fictitious Ariel College, Cambridge, the story begins with what appears to be yet another in a series of killings. A third student, June Okewano, is found horrifically butchered in as many years. However, this time two other students are found with the victim. One, Nick Hardcastle, becomes the immediate suspect given that he is discovered attempting to replace June's intestines back inside her body. The other, Olivia Corscadden, is in what appears to be a catatonic state, unable to respond to anything.
Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Weathers calls in his old University friend, forensic psychiatrist, Matthew Denison to try and unlock the evidence that he feels sure must be in Olivia's mind if only she can be reached and helped to communicate. Over a period of weeks and eventually months, Matthew pieces together not only all that has happened since Olivia and Nick arrived at Cambridge, but much about Olivia's early life that will prove relevant to the investigation as well.
The reader is encouraged to fit the pieces in the puzzle together at the same time as the investigative team and consequently makes as many false moves as they do. In fact, I pinned the culprit very early on, but was repeatedly made to think that I had got it wrong and that I was doing that individual a disservice. At least my mistakes didn't directly lead to an innocent individual being accused of murder. Matthew Denison is not so lucky.
Newman is a real find. I was completely gripped by the story from the very first pages and thoroughly convinced by the characters she has created. The atmosphere of menace is deftly evoked and the eventual denouement both realistic and terrifying in its implications. I thought at first she was looking to build up a series, and would have been happy to go on developing a relationship with Weathers and Denison. However, given the metaphorical coup de grace delivered in the final pages I don't see how that would be possible. Nevertheless, I have her new book, The Company of Shadows, on reservation from the library and hope it will live up to its predecessor. If you like Sophie Hannah, or even more, I think, if you enjoy S J Bolton then it would be worth your giving this a try.