Devon may be mainly regarded as a tourist paradise of cream teas, sandy beaches and wild and ruggedly beautiful scenery both on the coast and inland, but in Plymouth, one that county's principle cities, there is currently a spate of violent assaults on young female students and the police are under pressure to produce results in the shape of a conviction. When a body is washed up onto a local beach, murder enters the equation but D I Charlotte Savage soon discovers that the murderer she's hunting isn't prepared to stop at just one crime.
I bought 'Touch' from Amazon based on the number of positive reviews it's received. In the past, I've been disappointed by some of the Kindle only books that I've downloaded, even those which have had good reviews, but after reading the sample on the Amazon website, I decided this looked a cut above the rest and 99p wasn't exactly going to break the bank.
As far as I'm aware, 'Touch' is the first book Mark Sennen has published. It's certainly the first in a proposed series which will feature Detective Inspector Charlotte Savage and I can't wait for book number two. The author lives in Devon so he's created a story set in a landscape that's familiar to him and which certainly gives this novel authenticity and it should appeal to anyone with a detailed knowledge of Devon and Dartmoor in particular. I'm not sure how accurate his portrayal of police procedures may be but it comes across as totally believable.
The book which is written in the third person begins with a prologue introducing the murderer and his most recent victim and from those few short passages the reader learns that the murderer is seriously deranged and will continue to kill until he's stopped.
Charlotte Savage is a woman with a tragedy in her recent past. She's lost a child some years previously which has left a deep sadness in her life and created something of a rift between herself and her absent husband who's currently away at sea with the Navy. Charlotte has been investigating the abduction and assaults on the female students at the University. The girls have been picked up in local clubs after their drinks have been spiked. They've then been driven away and repeatedly raped before being released. Charlotte Savage and her team is called in when a body is discovered washed up on the beach which has been identified as being that of Rosina Delgado, one of the students who had been a victim of one of these sexual assaults. Her presence on a Devon beach is hard to explain, however, as Rosina had been accompanied to a cross Channel ferry to return home to Spain though her parents report she never arrived. What is certain is that whoever was perpetrating those rapes is escalating their behaviour to the next level: murder.
With any crime novel, the reader begins to try to piece together the clues hoping to reach a conclusion before the investigating officer but this book has so many twists and turns and red herrings that I was left floundering. I couldn't even work out whether the crimes were the work of one person or whether the murderer had an accomplice and it wasn't until well on in the book before this became completely clear. I should mention that these crimes are of a particularly unpleasant kind and are sexual in nature and the author doesn't spare the details so this book is really only recommended for those with a strong stomach.
There are several strands to the story which to begin with seem totally unrelated but as the book progresses all these disparate strands come together to produce an excellent finale. This may be Mark Sennen's first book but it demonstrates some highly developed and clever plotting skills and a lightness of touch in building characters which are well rounded enough to be believable but don't ever dominate the story.
Although this is the first in a series which will feature DI Charlotte Savage and we're privy to quite a bit of Charlotte's back story it really doesn't seem at all relevant in this novel though it may be so in subsequent books. The main emphasis is all on the crimes and the story is told from alternate perspectives, that of the police and occasionally the latest victim, as well as that of the murderer who the reader only knows as Harry. Though the police characters may come across as fairly stereotypical in many respects, Harry is a complete original. His thought processes are truly frightening because it makes one realise that it's impossible to reason with someone who is a total sociopath, so lost in a world of their own making that they are almost oblivious to the real world and yet managing to function amongst us without detection. I suppose it's a testament to Mark Sennen's writing that although I felt total revulsion at what Harry was doing, I also had a modicum of sympathy for him or at least for the child he once was. He may always have had the seeds of madness within him but his childhood experiences certainly didn't help him grow up to be a well rounded human being.
The story is well paced and is a real page turner, especially as the book nears its climax and Charlotte and her colleagues are working against the clock in an attempt to find the latest victim before it's too late and a happy outcome was always in doubt.
I would detail some of the negative aspects of this story if there were any major ones but there aren't other than a couple of little typos, which I'm guessing is down to the fact that Mark Sennen has published this on Kindle only without the benefit of a professional proof-reader. These little typos certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment.
This is a tautly plotted, well paced novel with some excellent characterisation and I'm looking forward to the second book in the series.
I paid 99p for my copy but the price has now risen to £1.99. That's still a pretty good price to pay for such a darn good read.
Originally posted on Ciao under the same user ID