Today I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Lloyd Otis’ debut novel Dead Lands. This vintage police procedural is the perfect balance of drama and deadly. An absolute must-read for lovers of mysteries, thrillers, crime fiction, fantastic writing and believable characters.
Title: Dead Lands
Author: Lloyd Otis
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Publication Date: October 12, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Crime Fiction
Themes: Murder, Racism, Organized Crime
My Rating: 5/ 5
Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alexander Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy. Dead Lands is the thrilling debut of award winning short story writer Lloyd Otis, and intelligently covers issues of race, discrimination and violence in a changing 70s landscape.
There is nothing I love better than a good, old fashioned police procedural. And Lloyd Otis’ debut novel certainly hit the ticket. Not only is the police action and investigation absolutely spot on, but it takes the notion of ‘old fashioned’ back to an era that give the give the story the perfect vintage feel.
Oh, and that opening! I couldn’t have asked for a more engaging entry point into this twisted little thriller. Starting off with the killer’s viewpoint left me constantly guessing as to who they actually were and how they fit into Otis’ carefully crafted puzzle. The details of the kill kit, the cellophane, and the rituals of the murder left me expecting a serial spree, so I was thrown for a loop when it started looking more like organized crime. The forever shifting landscape, approach, and viewpoints kept me off balance and from guessing the ending, and for that I have to give kudos!
Normally I’m a sucker for the female lead in any story, but I have to say that DI Arlo Breck absolutely stole the show. I really enjoyed how the depths of his character and the personal challenges that he is facing is unveiled slowly. The breadcrumb style of character building kept me constantly sympathetic and always wanting to know more about what was coming next. And, being me, I was almost more interested in finding out what happened to Breck’s girlfriend and the resolution of her case – but the ways in which her case and Breck’s current investigation were intertwined were absolute gold. The stories drove one another, and I must admit that I was completely caught of guard by the ending. I wasn’t expecting Breck to take the high road, but I’m really glad that he did!
And where to start with DS Kearns? I gripe about gaining ground in the workplace, and her struggles to be taken seriously and earn respect seriously forced me to take a step back and be thankful for what I have. What I loved the most about her though, was how she tried to take the other female officers under her wing, trying to raise them through the ranks based on merit rather than gaining ground through promiscuity… even when she doesn’t particularly care for an officer.
Ultimately though, the stories of Kearns and Breck come together perfectly to create the perfect balance between police procedural and personal drama. Now add in the 70s fashion that left me dreaming of bell bottoms and gold hoops, suspects using aliases, some stereotypical douche-bag officers, and a seriously twisted killer and you’ve got a but novel that leaves one dreaming of a series, or at the very least a follow-up or two delving deeper into the stories of Kearns, Breck, or maybe even the adventures of the elusive Troy.
Would I recommend this book? Oh hells yes! Not only is it a fun piece of historical fiction in an underwritten era, but it touches on so many issues that are still relevant today. Dead Lands is a must read for lovers of crime fiction, mysteries, and thrillers.
Lloyd was born in London and attained a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication. After gaining several years of valuable experience within the finance and digital sectors, he completed a course in journalism. Lloyd has interviewed a host of bestselling authors, such as Mark Billingham, Hugh Howey, Kerry Hudson, and Lawrence Block. Two of his short stories were selected for publication in the ‘Out of My Window’ anthology, and he currently works as an Editor.