Review: The Surrogate by Tania Carver

Monday, 19 September 2016
Title: The Surrogate
Author: Tania Carver
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date: 17th September 2009
Pages: 448
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
A shocking double-murder scene greets Detective Inspector Philip Brennan when he is called to a flat in Colchester. Two women are viciously cut open and laying spreadeagled, one tied to the bed, one on the floor. The woman on the bed has had her stomach cut into and her unborn child is missing.

But this is the third time Phil and his team have seen such an atrocity. Two other pregnant women have been killed in this way and their babies taken from them. No-one can imagine what sort of person would want to commit such evil acts.

When psychologist Marina Esposito is brought in, Phil has to put aside his feelings about their shared past and get on with the job. But can they find the killer before another woman is targeted?

The Surrogate is a book I have wanted to read for ages as it is the first book in a series that I have waited too long to read. I have previously read Truth or Dare by Tania Carver and loved it. The Surrogate deals with a very dark and uncomfortable storyline, and this is from someone who loves their crime fiction as brutal as possible. One of my favourite authors is Chris Carter for that very reason. However the storyline in The Surrogate will possibly put off potential readers and interestingly some of my blogging friends have rated this book 1 star on Goodreads but haven't posted any comments or a review, so as the book is well written and characterised, it would be interesting to know whether the star rating is for the storyline itself.

Detective Inspector Phil Brennan is called to a Colchester flat where two women have been found murdered, one of them was pregnant and their unborn child has been removed from her body. Straightaway it's clear why this story is extremely uncomfortable to read. The writing duo of Tania Carver do not hold back in their descriptions, and I did feel a little queasy reading the opening chapters of this book. Brennan soon has his work cut out for him in trying to find out just what kind of mind could possibly commit such an atrocious act. Brennan and his team call upon Marina Esposito who, because of events that happened on a previous case she worked on with the police, is extremely reluctant to work with them again. Both are well-drawn characters who I already felt like I knew a little bit because of my time spent with them in Truth or Dare. At times it felt like the authors were alluding to a previous story rather than sharing the background of this duo and it felt almost like I had missed out on a crucial part of their lives and working relationship and this isn't always the case in a debut novel that introduces you to new characters.

The writing does draw you in and the investigation is professional and, for the most part, believable with some interesting twists and turns. Because of the graphic nature of the killings and the fact that babies are being removed from the victims, part of me wondered just what kind of resolution the authors would deliver. What kind of justification would be given for something like this being carried out and this is where the story fell a little flat. I'm all for brutal crime fiction, but it needs to have something behind it which explains that brutality rather than it just being solely for the shock or gruesome factor. In the background we have chapters from those connected to the killings of the soon-to-be mothers and whilst I obviously can't go into too much detail about these characters, I didn't feel like the denouement was a satisfying one and felt that for a book that features a psychologist as its main character, that psychological element was lacking, as too was the depth the authors went into about what made certain characters the people they were. I just wanted more detail and, having read Truth or Dare which is a later book in this series, it's clear how much the writing duo have improved upon this series and I recently purchased all of the books in this series because I know just how good it is.

The Surrogate is a solid crime read and a good introduction to Phil Brennan and Marina Esposito and I do recommend it despite the fact that for me there were just a few little things missing but it doesn't stop me from recommending this book to those looking for a new crime series to discover.

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