Karen Taylor is an academic psychologist at the University of Southampton and a consultant forensic psychologist to the UK’s Department of Justice. She made her debut in No Escape, set on the Isle of Wight, a location that features heavily in this second outing. As the book opens, Karen is to interview Randall Gyre, on probation after being convicted of attacking a young woman some years before. The interview is part of a project of Karen’s, in which she aims to see if it is possible to predict whether released violent criminals will re-offend.
Gyre is a charming psychopathic type. Karen warns her bosses that he should never have been released, to no avail. Before long, he has failed to turn up to his probation appointments and cannot be found. Then, a policeman is discovered, murdered in his flat. Is Gyre now attacking those who he holds responsible for his conviction, or is the death unrelated? Karen, inevitably, becomes more involved in this case as it escalates, advising both her rather unpleasant superiors at the department, and the police as they investigate an increasing number of possibly related crimes.
Lifeblood is a brisk novel with a solid plot – though I correctly guessed the identity of the villain right from this person’s first appearance in the book. Even so, the theme of violence against women, and the subsequent difficulty of getting rape charges to court, and the even greater difficulty of obtaining a conviction, are well-depicted, mainly by sections about one or two of Gyre’s previous victims and what they’ve done with their lives since.
In Karen’s personal life, as before, she is torn between handsome, nice but boring boyfriend Will, and handsome, nice but less boring police officer Charlie. After two books this dithering is becoming a bit tiresome, so I hope Karen makes up her mind in the next one. The university scenes are well-done, as is the subplot about the run-down chalet on the island owned by Karen’s family – which could intersect with the Gyre investigation by a route unanticipated by Karen or the police. Apart from her romantic dithering, Karen is an attractive, independent protagonist, whose professional interactions are invariably interesting to read. The patronising, buck-passing attitude of her male senior colleagues makes the blood boil, but she deals with them by refusing to be pushed around, doing her job well and showing them up. I look forward to reading about her next case.
I bought my copy of this book.
My Euro Crime review of No Escape, the first novel in this series.
Euro Crime review of Face of the Devil (by Lizzie Hayes), the third novel in this series. A fourth book, Vengeance in Mind, is published in the UK this month (April 2012).
N J Cooper has previously written two crime series under the name of Natasha Cooper and other books as Clare Layton – see Euro Crime for details and links to reviews.