The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A serial killer and his copycat are locked in a violent game of cat and mouse. Can DI Anjelica Henley stop them before it’s too late?

On the day she returns to active duty with the Serial Crimes Unit, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is called to a crime scene. Dismembered body parts from two victims have been found by the river.

The modus operandi bears a striking resemblance to Peter Olivier, the notorious Jigsaw Killer, who has spent the past two years behind bars. When he learns that someone is co-opting his grisly signature—the arrangement of victims’ limbs in puzzle-piece shapes—he decides to take matters into his own hands.

As the body count rises, DI Anjelica Henley is faced with an unspeakable new threat. Can she apprehend the copycat killer before Olivier finds a way to get to him first? Or will she herself become the next victim?

Drawing on her experience as a criminal attorney, debut novelist Nadine Matheson delivers the page-turning crime novel of the year. Taut, vivid and addictively sinister, The Jigsaw Man will leave you breathless until the very last page.

DI Anjelica Henley has had a rough few years, with her marriage on shaky ground, a toddler daughter and recovering from serious wounds – both mental and physical – which she sustained capturing the infamous Jigsaw Killer. While outwardly normal and calm, Henley is barely keeping everything together. So when a copycat killer is leaving dismembered body pieces in highly public places all over London, Henley and her colleagues are drawn back into a psychological game they thought was long over.

I’m often a bit hit or miss with “psycho killer is helping the police – or is he?” style of stories. It’s such a delicate balance to my mind between having your bad guy actually be a bad guy (and not an anti-hero, which is a different thing for me) but also making sure your villain doesn’t appear to be a cartoon character or overdrawn. It’s incredibly hard and that thin line is different for so many readers, and thus a lot of various books out there fall short of the mark for me. I was delighted that – from my perspective at least – this book delivered on many levels and I am already eagerly anticipating hopefully a next book.

I think a large part of this books success for me was much of the story focused closely in on Henley. I loved how her character was flawed – deeply, in a few respects – but Anjelica was trying so hard to keep everything together just as so many women nowadays are. Keeping numerous balls up in the air – husband, child, career, mental health, her own personal happiness – all the while struggling with some serious emotional baggage and well-deserved fears I found her character to be both incredibly relatable but also someone I could hold a deep empathy for. I was particularly pleased that many of her actions weren’t necessarily the “right” choices. I found it deeply relatable but also quite difficult to read about her denial about her mental health and how she managed to juggle these various aspects of her life. While Anjelica thought she did both of these things successfully I wasn’t so sold and this made gripping reading for me. Thankfully, while I didn’t agree with all of her choices, at no time did I feel she was being outrageous or blindly stupid. The author did an amazing job to my mind in showing the reader why Anjelica was making her various choices and how they might not be the “right” thing they were the best decision for her in the moment.

I also was delightfully frustrated but in awe of how well the author doled out the backstory – and particularly the information related to Peter Olivier – the serial killer Anjelica and her coworkers incarcerated a few years previously. Indeed I think much of my enjoyment of this story was learning about Olivier – and what, exactly, was going on – in a slow, drip-feed style of manner. There was no massive info-dump early on, explaining the scene or letting the reader in on the machinations of what was occurring. And while a few times I was frustrated that I had no idea of some of the aspects of the past related to the case, it’s closure and exactly how everyone came to be in the situation they were, the author was exceptional in slowing fleshing out that history as it became relevant to the current circumstances. For a debut book I feel this was handled masterfully and while I’m not sure it will be every readers cup of tea (it really was annoying at times to know I was missing pieces of the puzzle – heh – and having to wait for the author to give it to me rather than having everything up front) it also kept the tension, pace and eagerness for me to continue reading really high. This could easily be a story readers devour in a sitting or two mainly because the urge to discover what’s going on, to solve the puzzle and get those answers was huge. This was a page turner in many respects.

Finally, I really enjoyed how the plot itself was fairly simple the story as a whole was so much greater than that. The way the characters – Henley’s colleagues at the Serious Crime Unit in particular – all interacted and how all the moving parts of the story wove together. This book was refreshing and different but familiar enough I didn’t feel out of my depth. In particular Olivier’s character – even though he’s nowhere near as prominent in the story as Anjelica and her team mates – were all handled exceptionally well and I am really hoping there’s not a big lag before the next book comes out. This story doesn’t end on a cliff hanger as such – the plot is rounded out nicely, but Henley does make a large and serious personal decision in the last few pages of the story. It’s obviously the set up for the next book, and I am deeply intrigued how the author will handle it.

Readers who like a gritty, complex and character-driven mystery story should find this as wonderful as I did. I am eager for more stories from this author.

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