“Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind” (St. Jerome)
I first met P.D. Viner at Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate last year and whilst I found the man intriguing, his book, or rather his book cover, did very little to engage me. Perhaps it goes further still, past the image to the title itself. Summer of Ghosts invoked ideas of someone reacting to a ghostly presence, a topic which I do not tend to explore or choose to read about. However, if I had taken just a few moments to read the blurb on the back it may not have taken me a year to actual pick the book up and read it.
Star Rating: ****
First published in 2014 by Ebury Press
Detective Superintendent Tom Bevans receives that call, the one that no-one wants to receive. There is another dead girl taking the total to three meaning that there is now a serial killer on the loss somewhere in the city, but where?
Heather Spall, Tracy Mason and Sarah Penn were all young and they had their futures viciously stolen from them, but why? That is what Tom Bevans along with his ‘Ares’ Team needs to find out.
“The unit is Ares – we go after the men of war: those who hurt and kill and take what they want from those they perceive as weaker than themselves.”
Has the killer, however, finally slipped up? They have left a victim behind. Alison Stokes is vulnerable, has been painfully attacked and left for dead, but there may just be a chance that she remembers something; something that could help Tom solve the case and put this lunatic behind bars.
“We try to protect women who would otherwise be victims, and if we cannot protect them, we avenge them.”
Fast forward over four years and Team Ares are starring at three cold cases that have long been buried under a mountain of other incidents far more relevant to today’s times. Tom had promised to avenge each of the dead girls, had even cried over them but has to date, failed.
Tom is clearly struggling. Being surrounded by death on a daily basis cannot be good for anyone’s mental health, but add to this the fact that his girlfriend was cruelly taken from him years and it was only going to be a matter of time before the cracks started to show.
Whilst Tom is out of action, lives are still being destroyed. His team are coping, and DI Thorsen seems to be running the unit well, but ultimately some people are only ever going to be comfortable talking to the lead man, and that man is currently a broken mess who is seeing dead people.
On the other side of the law, Franco is having problems of his own. Once a well-respected leader of the Dark Wolves he is now being hunted. Worse still, his daughter is in trouble and it is entirely his fault; Pia is the pawn being used to flush him out.
Having squirreled millions belonging to the gang as an insurance fund the only way he is now going to get his daughter back is to give them what they want – their money. Not happy with that as an outcome though, he turns to the one person he believes that he can trust, the DSI suffering with severe issues always on the verge of breaking down. So how does someone like this gain the attention of a high-standing police officer? He breaks into Ares headquarters and threatens to take the life of someone else of course.
“This is the deal. You will come to us and bring all the bank codes for the money… We will take it all back and you will say you are sorry for taking it. Then, and only then, we will release your daughter.”
Will Franco save Pia or is it already too late? Will Tom ever be able to overcome his demons to get a result not only for Franco but for each of the dead girls he sees each night when he sleeps?
This is a story of intertwining nightmares; one of family disasters and hidden loyalties. If you enjoy reading a novel that will keep you guessing then this is a novel for you.
P.D. Viner has crafted a gripping thriller, one that will impressive any reader. Whilst I was dismissive at first because of the title, what it has highlighted to me is that I need to look past the front cover and read the gem held within. My advice, if you enjoy crime thrillers this is one to take note of.
Life is never what you think it will be”
This is often true of books as well. When Sophie Hannah described this book as “audacious, clever and bold” she nailed it. This is a novel well-worth taking the time to read.