Review: Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt

Tuesday 10 February 2015
Title: Follow the Leader
Author: Mel Sherratt
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: 10th February 2015
Source: NetGalley Review Copy
Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781477821855
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
A man’s body is found on a canal towpath. In his pocket, a magnetic letter in the shape of an E.

Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing.

As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert.

The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next. The rules are simple but deadly—to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.

Mel Sherratt is now a must read author for me, and Follow the Leader is my favourite book of hers so far (that I have read). The premise for the book actually sounds quite simple, but in the hands of Mel Sherratt it is anything but simple. Mel knows how to tell a story, and how to tell it in a way that has me gripped. As always I'm wary of how much to reveal, but it is hard to review a book without giving away some of the plot so don't say I didn't warn you.

A man's body is found on a canal towpath, and a magnetic letter E is found in his pocket. DS Allie Shenton, from Taunting the Dead is one of the officers on the case and they barely have time to breathe before another body is found, this time of a local glamour model, a letter V tucked into her clothing. Both victims are connected to the killer, Patrick, and that connection is made clear at the very start of the book. We often follow the killer in crime fiction, but it isn't often their motives are made that clear, so early on. The book lost none of its excitement or tension however, as Mel kept the twists coming until the very end of the book.

The book features flashbacks to the killer's schooldays, I attended an inner city comprehensive which wasn't exactly rough, but it had its moments so the scenes being described here were instantly recognisable to me, and made me remember those kids that were picked on for the way they looked, dressed or acted. Patrick has a clear motivation behind what he's doing and it's frightening to think that something from a person's schooldays can remain with them until adulthood, turning them into a killer. His upbringing did play a big part in things however, and despite the fact he was a killer there were still moments I felt for him and it was interesting to really get inside his head. The flashbacks certainly show Patrick's justification (or at least in his eyes) for carrying out the murders, some of these characters are still pretty horrible in the present day and whilst murder might be a tad extreme, those scenes were brilliantly written and at times graphic, just what I want from a book.

Allie is a character I am fast becoming a fan of, and I love that she's a strong character, still with various flaws and weaknesses but she's a character that stands out in this crowded genre. I'm rather bored of the single woman police officer, with the vodka in the freezer and the empty wine bottles overflowing in the recycling who has an unhealthy relationship with men and sex so it's quite refreshing to have a character like Allie. That's not so say her home life and relationship aren't without their problems, but they are problems I actually want to read about. Especially the continuing thread from Taunting the Dead concerning her sister who was attacked and left for dead years earlier, the attacker was never found but is still in the background taunting Allie. I had a theory about this, and thought it was going to be a twist in this book but sadly, I was wrong! What I will say though is that whilst this thread is interesting, approaching book three I would like some resolution rather than it being continually dragged out for ages, Peter James' Sandy anyone? So hopefully book three will see that resolved.

Another thing I love about this series is Mel's portrayal of Stoke, I don't know the city and have never visited but reading these books I feel like I do know the city, and it really came to life within this book's pages. You can tell Mel knows and loves the city, shining a light on its good parts but also its bad. I read a lot of London set crime fiction or US crime fiction so it's always nice to read a book not set in those areas. Also, all of her characters feel like actual people, which gives her books more of a sense of realism. This is fiction that you can easily picture being real life, a story on the news or even something that could happen on your own street which oddly, makes me enjoy the book even more. That realism and believable portrayal of the human mind really gets my own mind ticking over, and I do spent a little longer mulling over my thoughts after reading a Mel Sherratt book than I might with other books especially with this book's unexpected but brilliant ending. You can see the effort that has gone it, and having followed Mel on Twitter for a while now it's obvious she loves what she does and that shows on every page, yes every author loves writing but Mel was born to do it, and she does it better than most. The DS Allie Shenton series comes highly recommended by me, and I want book three now after that cliffhanger!


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