Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour David Stuart Davies latest instalment in the DI Paul Snow series, Blood Rites. This gritty period crime thriller had me at the opening lines, and I was enraptured until the last word. It’s dark and twisty in all the right places, packed with personal development, and beautifully written – an absolute must read for crime book junkies!
Title: Blood Rites
Author: David Stuart Davies
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Publication Date: November 9, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Period Fiction
Themes: Serial Murders, Crime, Homophobia, Prejudice
Features: Teaser for The Scarlet Coven
Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. DI Paul Snow has a personal secret He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?
This was my first introduction to DI Paul Snow, and I am certain that I will be going back and looking for the first two books in the series over the holidays, I am in love! Not only is Paul an engaging and complex character, but the 1980s setting lends a gritty period feel that is so close in the recent past that you can almost reach out and touch it.
Stylistically, I loved how the book ended with the same passage with which it opened. And given how the ending played out, it really gave a sense of closure when in reality I was sitting in my bed at 2:00 AM screaming “What? No! That did not just happen!’. Seriously though, it can’t end there (and it’s so hard not to hand out spoilers right now), but it just can’t. Admittedly, I guessed who the killer was the second time they were introduced, but there is a part of me (read my ego) that enjoys guessing things correctly before they are confirmed. Even so, I was not expecting that final twist – which makes me like this book even more.
Now add in the shifting points of view, some gut wrenching back stories, and a failed romance and you practically have the perfect storm. While I felt very little empathy for all but one of the victims, I really connected with the people that they impacted – especially Mandy. I found the parts written from her POV so incredibly uncomfortable to read and bawled my face off when Paul found her diary. I think because the stories of these affected characters are so compelling, that the choice to have a ‘house cleaner’/ mission oriented serial killer was spot on. After a while I was surprised to find myself empathizing with them, even though I really didn’t want to.
Paul was just one of those characters that I couldn’t help but loving from the minute that he was introduced. The mixture of his compassion and complexity created the perfect contrast for the harsh realities of his professional life. I felt as though he was precariously balanced on an emotional tightrope with no safety net, and hated that it had to be Mat’s brother that sent him scrambling for purchase. I can only imagine what it would have been to be gay and on the police force in the 80s, and works such as this lend essential insights into long-held stigmas as well as the respective challenges of being openly gay as opposed to bending to societal expectations.
And don’t get me started on Mat. It’s not very often that I want to reach through the pages of a book and give someone a good smack, but I ended up bathing her more than our killer. How often does that happen? I disliked how selfish she was in her expectations of the relationship, and how she pushed Paul despite his discomfort. Her treatment of her brother too, was particularly distasteful. I know that different times call for different perceptions being held, but her utter indifference to helping him get back on his feet, as well as her desire to keep him hidden from all in her social circles was a really big turn off for me. But seriously, with her work at the school, and her family experiences, you would think that she might have some more compassion for Paul rather than playing hot and cold, and then transforming into an ice queen.
Ultimately, this is a book full of villains, both expected and unexpected. It is both predictable and chaotic, simple and complicated, slow and fast. The characters behave in exactly the way you expect them to, even if you are hoping against all odds that they will not. Our killer is a textbook house cleaner, and yet still manages some unexpected surprises along the way.
Would I recommend this book? Hells yes! Blood Rites is thrilling, complex, and insightful and I can’t wait to see where David Stuart Davies will take this story next. For those shopping for the crime book junkie in your family, you might want to add this one to your Christmas list. For those who simply love diverse and well written books don’t wait until the holidays to pick this sucker up!
David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.
David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and SherlockHolmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.
He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’
David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DStuartDavies @DStuartDavies
Many thanks to Abby Fairbrother at Anne Bonny Book Reviews for organizing a fabulous blog tour, and to D. Stuart Davies and Urbane Publications for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.