To Catch a Killer by Emma Kavanagh - book review: A riveting, twisting, edge-of the seat mystery

After ten years in the police force, DS Alice Parr knows that staying emotionally detached from murder victims is vital.

Monday, 21st January 2019, 2:29 pm
Updated Monday, 21st January 2019, 2:34 pm
To Catch a Killer by Emma Kavanagh

But when she holds the hands of a woman close to death from horrific stab wounds after being attacked in a park, she finds herself becoming obsessively invested in finding the killer… wherever that may lead, and however dangerous it may prove.

A former police and military psychologist, Emma Kavanagh has taught police officers and NATO personnel about the psychology of critical incidents, terrorism, body recovery and hostage negotiation… and boy, does it show in her writing!

This is an author who looks deep into the complexities of a murderer’s mind… she knows how they think, their obsessions, what makes them tick, and what makes them kill, and it’s this knowledge – combined with impressive writing skills – that have made her crime thrillers so exciting and so startlingly authentic.

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To Catch a Killer – a fast-paced page-turner and the first book of what looks set to be a cracking trilogy – sees Kavanagh on top form as we follow the trail of a clever, devious murderer whose mind games plunge a young woman detective into a menacing cat-and-mouse chase.

Hearing an emergency call on her radio as she walks to work in London one morning, DS Alice Parr is the first officer on the nearby scene of a brutal stabbing and quickly realises this is not just an opportunistic mugging gone wrong.

As a paramedic works to save the female victim, who has been stabbed repeatedly and her throat cut, the woman clutches Alice’s hand ‘as if holding on to me she could hold on to a rapidly disappearing life.’

Most victims are dead by the time Alice arrives at a murder crime scene but this woman was alive and before she fell into unconsciousness, she whispered just one word… ‘wolf.’ It creates an instant bond for Alice and she is doubly determined to find out who the woman is, and why she was daringly targeted in broad daylight.

Murder, Alice knows, is never simply death. ‘It had many fingers, strands that wound their way out from the victim, wrapping themselves around countless other lives.’

But identifying the victim is harder than Alice thought and her search for the truth inadvertently sets in motion an unrelenting mind game with the killer. As she inches closer to the truth, Alice’s own troubled past becomes harder to ignore and to find her quarry, she must first discover what the murderer is trying to hide.

As well as breathtaking psychological insight, there is an intensely emotional depth to Kavanagh’s writing as readers are drawn into both Alice Parr’s fast-moving investigation, and the devastating events in her personal life that have left her both mentally and physically scarred.

Despite suffering bouts of insecurity, the feisty but very human Alice remains resourceful and resilient, and determined to track down the shadowy killer who is watching her every move. As the tension mounts and the menace grows, the net spreads across the Atlantic to New York, and dark secrets are revealed through a series of shocking revelations.

But To Catch a Killer is only the first chapter of a riveting, twisting, edge-of the seat mystery and although some resolutions are reached, this is not the end of the story by any means… expect more chills, thrills and disturbing truths to come!

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)