Against the fear and hysteria whipped up by the sighting of an enormous and vicious animal, former DI John Tynan becomes aware of the death of Martha Toolin, a woman that he had recently begun to see.
As DI Mike Croft and DS Jude Burnett attempt to solve the mystery, they seek to learn more about Martha, in an attempt to find out who might have wanted her dead. It turns out that Martha Toolin wasn’t being entirely honest about herself. She was leading a whole other life as Julia.
Martha had first made herself acquainted with John, claiming to be a relative of his from his mother’s side. She said that she wanted to research the family tree. Tynan assists in her search wholeheartedly.
Croft and Tynan try to piece together what they know of Tynan’s family history to find the answer to who killed Martha. But then another victim falls dead. Tom Pollard, an 18-year-old kid just out of the foster home system, who felt abandoned by Martha.
They also find that Martha made a living out of deceiving people, and that there were many people who might have wanted her dead.
Are the two murders related? And what about the fearsome animal that is striking fear in the hearts of all those who see it?
The book is written mostly in the third person limited viewpoint of Mike Croft, DI in charge of the case, and Tynan.
The setting comes alive with descriptions of the weather, the atmosphere, and the geological degradation making their presence felt.
The mystery was rather weak, and there were too many issues with this book. What's more, the cover image was completely irrelevant.
At first Martha is described as being 18 years Tynan’s junior. But later on in the book, he is described as being 70-odd, while she is 60-odd.
The book was a tad too long. I got more than a little impatient when Mike’s backstory, and descriptions of the interior décor of his house began to show up on the page. The information about Maria’s family was unnecessary. Why does a DI who has a murder case on his hands feel the need to give us a long description of the décor of his house?
The naming convention employed by the author, not coincidentally a J, is another issue. There are altogether too many Js in this story. There’s Jason Matthews, Julie, John, John’s uncle Jerry, DS Jude. There are two Phils. Sure, they are both minor and unrelated, but why use the same name? Then there is the DI Mike Croft, who has a brief conversation with someone called Mark. A news reporter is called Geoff and then some chapters later the same guy turns into Graham Firth.
At the 40 percent mark, the promised twists and turns hadn’t shown up. The investigation seemed to take on forever. This book was painfully slow. I felt bored and lost interest. There were frequent flashbacks, very few of them valuable. Plus, there is a persistent myth about Old Shuck, a large and vicious dog that persists over centuries and is an unmistakable part of folklore. The only reason I didn’t give up is because I can’t bring myself to give up on a book. Things began to speed up only after the 70 percent mark.