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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dead Scared, by S. J. Bolton (hardcover, $25.95) (due 6/15)

Although S. J. Bolton doesn't usually do series, this is the follow-up to Now You See Me. Series characters Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury are police detectives. They shared a case that left both of them physically and mentally injured. At the time this story opens, they haven't seen each other in a few months. They apparently have complicated personal and professional relationships.

Dead Scared is sometimes difficult to read because it frequently changes narration points of view and time periods. However, Lacey's first person narrative has a good sense of character. She exhibits intriguing personality dichotomies; she is strong and vulnerable, smart and gullible. (Don't go in that dark room, Lacey!)

Bolton crafts her tale around a clustering of suicides in Cambridge. Is there more to them than meets the eye? It is a professional counselor, Evi Oliver, who first inspires the police to consider that there might be a malevolent force behind the statistical anomaly. (Evi appeared in Blood Harvest, making this a follow-up to that book, too.) Unfortunately, Evi herself may be the victim of a nasty prankster. Or she may be mentally unstable. Bolton does a good job of dangling the various permutations of truth and lie and craziness. It's hard to guess just what the red herrings are.

The plot is outlandishly elaborate. The suicides are different and sometimes macabre, and there is no clearcut evidence of manipulation by anyone else. It  turns out that it is Bolton who is the manipulator, and she is audaciously manipulating her audience. Everyone is a suspect, everyone is a victim. If the suicides are actually murders, why are they so venomously and intricately plotted? 

This is an entertaining book but, as noted above, if Lacey says to you, "Hey, let's go down this dark hallway," head the other way!

There are two additional things you need to know. The first is that this is more of a romance than the police procedural framework might suggest. The second is that you will have the catchphrase, "make sure all your boxes are ticked," running through your head like an annoying pop song.

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