Perfect Remains by Helen Fields

The Blurb On The Back:

The perfect death leaves perfect remains …

On a remote Highland mountain, a body burns.  All that’s left behind are the victim’s teeth and a fragment of silk.  Meanwhile, in the hidden back room of a house in Edinburgh, a second woman screams into the darkness.

It’s DI Luc Callanach’s first day with Police Scotland, and he’s handed a homicide investigation.  With everything to prove, he and his new colleague DI Ava Turner are up against a killer who meticulously covers his tracks.

When a third woman is taken, Callanach is desperate to prevent another innocent death – but the real fate of these women is more twisted than he could have ever imagined …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

DI Luc Callanach, a half-French, half Scots detective, has recently transferred to Edinburgh from Interpol in murky (and much gossiped about) circumstances.  On his first day he meets DI Ava Turner, another new joiner from England.  Each are given disturbing cases: Turner, the abandonment and death of a baby in an Edinburgh park; Callanach, the disappearance of Elaine Buxton, a high-powered commercial lawyer.

When a body turns up in the Cairngorms with Buxton’s DNA, clothing and teeth, it seems that Callanch has his first murder investigation.  What he doesn’t know is that Buxton’s kidnapper has a more twisted plan in mind.  Buxton is still alive, held captive by a man who is determined to mould and improve her …

Helen Fields’s debut crime thriller (the first in a series) is a well-paced if disturbingly violent and gruesome affair with a convincingly chilling antagonist and a refreshingly normal female lead character, but it’s let down by some stilted dialogue, a main character with a background I struggled to believe, an overblown ending and an obvious push for eventual romance between the two leads, which I didn’t think added much.  Ava Turner is a refreshingly normal female detective not saddled with neurosis or an inability to look after herself or a desperation for a boyfriend.  I enjoyed her professional support for Callanach and the competence of her own investigation and so could overlook her outburst about the Catholic Church (which seemed there purely to drive the plot).  Callanach, by contrast, is saddled with a heavy-handed background – the bad boy early behaviour, modelling, extreme sports fixation and the event that drove him to Scotland was all just too much for him to be believable and it’s exacerbated when his past catches up with him in a ham-fisted way that made me roll my eyes.  I also lost count of the number of times his French nationality was brought up.  There’s a lot of violence in the book, some of which made me squirm but for the most part the antagonist is well drawn and chilling (if a little stereotypical towards the end) and I believed the way he broke down his victims (if there are more books it would be interesting to come back to them).  Ultimately, while this book didn’t quite do it for me, there’s enough here for me to want to check out the next in the series.

PERFECT REMAINS was released in the United Kingdom on 26th January 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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