I enjoyed French's novel In the Woods, and when I found that it was part of a cycle of loosely-connected novels I had to keep an eye out for more. Found this hardcover at a local dollar store, quite a bargain! It switches viewpoints to "Scorcher" Kennedy, last seen in Faithful Place, and brings him and a very new young detective together to tackle the bizarre slaying of a family in a half-finished housing development.
The setting - that housing development - was supposed to be an entire neighborhood of high-end homes, but economic downturns (and shoddy workmanship) conspired to leave it only partly-finished, abandoned by the developers, and with the few home owners coping with underwater mortgages and increasing need for home-repairs. But for one family the stress is over: the children were found smothered upstairs in their beds, and the husband and wife were found together in a blood-spattered room, full of knife wounds. Somehow the wife survived - barely - and is in intensive care as the investigation begins.
The atmosphere of the "new" yet near-derelict housing development was chilling, as it's all too easy to see how that might happen. The details of the family's life, from early days with close friends, lucrative and satisfying employment, and great hopes for their new home to the increasing stress of job-loss, cutbacks, fears of social ostracism if they admit sudden poverty... well, they're all quite wrenching. And as if that weren't enough, the detectives unearth Internet logs (which someone had attempted to wipe from the family's PC) showing that the father was becomingly increasingly unhinged about some kind of large animal that was climbing around inside the house!
I admit that I guessed at least part of the solution early on, but there were plenty of plot-twists that surprised me - not least the complications resulting from the choices made by new detective Richie, and from Scorcher's mentally-unbalanced sister.
The story is narrated by Scorcher after the fact, so now and then he'll toss in some foreshadowing along the lines of "had I but known" or "should have noticed that" - but this also means we realize that he didn't know and failed to notice, though what that leads to isn't obvious until late in the story.
The description of his partnership with rookie Richie was quite entrancing, from his first recognition of some spark in the younger man to the revelations as to how well they worked together. Indeed, most of the books in this series seem to focus on partnerships, some great, some awkward, illustrating the glories of that perfect synchronicity that sometimes occurs, the frustration of having to work with someone who's not up to snuff - and the heartache of having a partnership torn apart, as in In the Woods.
French's writing appeals to me, too; the descriptions are often lyrical, such as this line: "Interesting fact from the front lines: raw grief smells like ripped leaves and splintered branches, a jagged green shriek."
I enjoyed the investigative details, the characters (good, bad, indifferent, weird), the colorful side plots and flashbacks - and the harrowing conclusion. I'd have liked the story to turn out some other way, but you have to take what the author gives you, I guess!
Released 2 yrs ago (1/2/2016 UTC) at Hannaford Supermarket charity-sale bookshelf in Nashua, New Hampshire USA
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I plan to donate this book to the ongoing charity-sale shelves inside Hannaford's. [They sell donated books for low prices, with the proceeds going to various charities.] Hope the buyer enjoys the book!
*** Released as part of the 2016 House and Home release challenge, for the room pictured on the cover. ***