Fall From Grace by John Carson

Fall From Grace by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

A mythical man known as Nightmare, haunted young children for years. Until he became real. DCI Harry McNeil knows the legend all too well. Growing up in the Highlands, Nightmare was on his and every other child’s mind as they went to sleep. Then, Nightmare claimed his first victim. A young girl, found dead in an abandoned cemetery with the words, I am Nightmare, carved into her chest. Two more victims, the same words carved into them. Then Nightmare disappears. Now, years later, there have been reports of graffiti being sprayed around Inverness and on graves in old cemeteries. Is Nightmare back? The question is on the lips of residents who are starting to feel uneasy. Initially dismissed as a prank, things start to get all too real. A Glasgow couple are talking to their adult daughter on Zoom. She is a reporter for an online magazine and is in the Highlands reporting on Nightmare. She is being chased through the woods. The couple don’t know if their daughter is spooked or if somebody is really chasing her. The call is cut and they call the police. The next morning, her body is found in a cemetery. I am Nightmare is carved into her chest. Harry McNeil is sent to the Highlands with a team from Glasgow. Their job is to hunt down a killer who once only existed in fevered minds. Once again, he’s all too real. I am Nightmare. Catch me if you can…

DCI Harry McNeil returns up to the Highlands when a sudden rush of murdered women appears in the cemetery with “I am Nightmare” carved into their chests. Has the old Boogeyman really returned or is something even more sinister afoot?

I have been reading this series for quite some time and still continue to enjoy the easy, smooth voice these stories have but also the banter and connection the group of characters have together. There is now a decent sized core group, both with Harry’s Edinburgh team and the equivalent Glasgow team so frequently joining in to work the cases together. The larger size of the main group of characters leads me to suggest that for a full appreciation of this (and the other) novels readers should have read at least a few prior books in this series. Absolutely read them all and from the start as each of these books are great, but with such a decent sized cast I feel readers won’t get a full appreciation of the storyline and importance of the case without at least some prior knowledge of the characters and the setup.

I also feel it important to note (without spoilers) that there is a major character death in this book. For the most part I feel this death was well handled and to some degree I could see it coming throughout the story. If I’m being really picky, I felt the final quarter or so of the book felt a little rushed to me – but that very likely could have been due to the fact a number of critical things happened in a short space of time and I read the last of the book all in one sitting. This might have made me feel everything was a bit rushed as there was quite a sense of urgency and the plot cumulating and no real fault of the author or story itself.

I admit I am very interested in how the next book (or next few books) progress, and how Harry deals with the major character death. I was surprised that a number of loose ends from the previous books were fairly neatly wrapped up and I definitely appreciated how the author handled the somewhat convoluted plotline and managed to draw a number of various parts together for this book. I also feel a re-read of the story will help a number of these parts to solidify well and I could see this being one of those books where a few re-reads give greater clarification and picking up of missed items.

Overall, I found this to be a very well plotted, decently paced murder mystery. There is a good amount of character ribaldry and interaction which I really enjoyed and a solid and properly complex plot which both add great weight and enjoyment to the book in my opinion. While I don’t feel readers should start with this book the series overall is quite excellent and is well with the time and money investment. I am eager to see what happens next and will absolutely be continuing with the next in the series.

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