Starvation Lake by John Carson

Starvation Lake by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Brand new series from the creator of the DCI Harry McNeil and DI Frank Miller novels, comes DCI Sean Bracken.

A killer on the loose.

A killer behind bars.

And a detective caught between them…

Ailsa Connolly was a brilliant psychologist and a respected criminologist.

She was also a serial killer.

Six years ago, DCI Sean Bracken caught her just before he was about to become her seventh victim. Every year on the anniversary of her incarceration, she taunts him with a phone call, giving him one message; when I get out, I’ll kill you.

Now, Bracken has transferred back to Edinburgh from Fife and is thrown into the deep end on his first day back on duty.

There’s a killer who is emulating Ailsa, threatening to surpass her body count.

Bracken knows he needs her on board to help him track the killer down, but she’s reluctant to get involved.

Then the case takes an unexpected twist, and she agrees to help. But this new killer is taking them down a dark, twisted path, where nobody sees the outcome.

Until it’s too late.

Needing a change, DCI Bracken transfers from Fife back to his original home base of Edinburgh. He’s hoping to start a fresh chapter, but when a serial killer begins mimicking Bracken’s biggest arrest – Ailsa Connolly – he finds his life changing but not in a good way.

I really enjoyed this full length novel. It’s the first of a new series, and I was eager to try it given I’m a big fan of one of this author’s other series – DCI Harry McNeil. I found this book absolutely lived up to my expectations and I’m really pleased to now have another series to look forwards to.

I thought the pacing of this story was good. While it’s absolutely a Scottish police procedural the plot might feel a little slow to readers looking for a more action-based or full throttle type of story. Yet I found the plot really well balanced, between introducing new characters, setting up the police team so I could get a handle on all the new people, and really begin to dig my teeth into the murder mystery plot. I also enjoyed that while Ailsa – the previously caught serial killer – was a strong part of the storyline she didn’t overshadow any of the main cast of characters.

There was a very, very light touch to the first bloom of romance between DCI Bracken and one of the pathologists. I was also fairly pleased with this. I often don’t mind there being no romance at all in my mystery reading (especially the more police procedural style of stories) but I felt this book didn’t have the romance or attraction take over from the actual mystery and thriller parts of the plotline.

Readers looking for a well plotted, slower paced and character centric style of story should find this book really fits the bill. I personally adored that it was set in Scotland and felt it added a lot to the ambience and general atmosphere of the story without feeling too cliched or overdone.

A good book and a new series I’m looking forward to getting into.

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