Title: Dead Scared (Lacey Flint #2)
Author: S.J. Bolton
Publication date: April 26, 2012
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Length: 378 pages
Age group: Adult
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Buy it: Amazon | Awesome Books | The Book Depository
When a Cambridge student dramatically attempts to take her own life, DI Mark Joesbury realizes that the university has developed an unhealthy record of young people committing suicide in extraordinary ways. Despite huge personal misgivings, Joesbury sends young policewoman DC Lacey Flint to Cambridge with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.
Psychiatrist Evi Oliver is the only person in Cambridge who knows who Lacey really is – or so they both hope. But as the two women dig deeper into the darker side of university life, they discover a terrifying trend… And when Lacey starts experiencing the same disturbing nightmares reported by the dead girls, she knows that she is next.
Christ, why is it that every time I try to write about S.J. Bolton’s books I’m at a loss for words (and then end up writing a whole novella)? There are so many things I’d love to say, yet, I don’t want to give anything, not even a tiny hint, away in the hope that you’ll pick them up and read them. Because what I can’t possibly emphasize more is that they are brilliant, unputdownable and are guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and an accompanying e-book short story, I couldn’t wait to pick up Dead Scared and find out how Lacey Flint’s story continues. While I’m normally quite wary of sequels and am often disappointed by them after a brilliant first book, this one was just as twisted, haunting and well-written as Now You See Me and If Snow Hadn’t Fallen were and completely lived up to my expectations.
A good story, for me, is made up of three things. Firstly, and most importantly, I have to feel safe in the knowledge that I’m in the hands of a great writer. In these cases, the writing is so effortless and so engaging that I know for certain that nothing can and will go wrong, that it will all be neatly wrapped up in the end, it won’t leave me feeling puzzled or wanting more. A good book also needs to leave a lasting impression. These are the books that, once I finish them, I don’t feel like reading anything for a couple of days or even a week, purely because the characters are still with me long after I finished the last chapter and I’m still reliving what I’ve been reading in the past couple of days. Thirdly, an exceptionally good book for me is so intriguing, so full of twists and turns that it makes me want to keep on reading despite the fact that it’s half past three in the morning and I have to get up in just a few hours. Dead Scared ticks all these boxes. If there’s an author who knows how to keep you reading long after your bedtime and – sorry for putting it like this – scare you shitless with such ease and without excessive violence, it’s definitely S.J. Bolton. And I mean this in the best possible way.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this particular book (and the whole series, for that matter) is the fact that it keeps you on the edge from start to finish. There are no dull moments in the story, no unnecessary facts or background information that is unnecessary for solving the mystery. There are a great deal of red herrings to make sure that you’re taken by surprise when the case is solved and the killers’/killers’ identity is revealed and an even greater amount of foreshadowing which makes it an unputdownable white-knuckle ride. And a terrifying one at that. Despite the fact that many people claim its opposite, it’s definitely not a character-driven book, if you ask me. The appeal of this novel lies not with its intricate background stories and complex characters but its twisty, edgy, unpredictable plot. Mind you, it doesn’t mean the characters are shallow or one dimensional. Quite the opposite, actually. They still remain absolutely believable, common, everyday people we can all relate to – which makes the story itself feel so much more creepier and much more real. Another thing I’ve already mentioned in my review of the first book and something I particularly like about Bolton’s books is the fact that you can feel how much research went into writing these stories which, again, makes them a lot more real and frightening. While we had detailed descriptions of the Jack the Ripper myth and all his/her victims in Now You See Me, the author gives a thoroughly detailed account of how these suicides (or murders?) are committed in Dead Scared. And this is where I’m going to be very vague because revealing how people are killing themselves (or are being killed) would mean revealing the whole mystery behind the book, but let’s just say all these details and the fact that it’s all so well-researched makes it so much harder for us to separate fiction from reality.
Also, as a side note, whoever did the cover for the UK edition of both Dead Scared and Now You See Me did a brilliant job. Both of them reflect the creepy, haunting atmosphere of the books and fit the stories perfectly, I think. I would also add, because some of you have been asking me this, that even though it’s the second book in the Lacey Flint series, I don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order or feel agitated if you haven’t read Now You See Me yet. Reading the first book gives you a bit of background knowledge of the two main characters – Lacey and her boss Mark – and what happened a few months before this story starts but since neither NYSM or Dead Scared are character-driven books and are two completely different stories, even if you’re not familiar with the previous one, you should be fine.
I would love to be able to say I managed to figure out who’s behind these deaths but for the most part I was suspecting people who ended up dead or became targets themselves so I think we can say I failed beautifully. (It’s not impossible to figure it out, mind, it’s just that a) everyone’s behaviour seems mighty shifty and b) I tend to suspect nice people because frankly, being nice and innocent-looking in a thriller is suspicious in itself. However, this theory doesn’t always seem to work out) As for the reason behind people’s deaths (Holy Mother of God…) and the ending that took me completely by surprise… let’s just say reading it in a pitch-dark room in an empty and silent flat at three in the morning wasn’t such a good idea and I’ve no intention of visiting Cambridge anytime soon.
Anyway, to put an end to my gushing and to sum up my rather vague review, Dead Scared is a truly memorable, chilling read which I, after staying up until the crack of dawn and reading more or less non-stop, managed to finish in just two days. It’s a combination of unique writing, a haunting atmosphere, an intricate plot, an arresting opening and a surprising ending – it’s an absolute must-read, one I can’t possibly recommend more highly than this. Trust me, it’s fantastic.
“When a large object falls from a great height, the speed at which it travels accelerates until the upward force of air resistance becomes equal to the downward propulsion of gravity. At that point, whatever is falling reaches what is known as terminal velocity, a constant speed that will be maintained until it encounters a more powerful force, most commonly the ground. Terminal velocity of the average human body is thought to be around 120 miles per hour. Typically this speed is reached fifteen or sixteen seconds into the fall, after a distance between five hundred and six hundred metres.“