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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge. NAL, June 2015.

            There’s nothing I like better than a fast-paced mystery. I like third-person narratives told from multiple viewpoints. I am always intrigued by moral dilemmas, and Arlidge toys with questions of conscience enough to hold my interest. Eeny Meeny is the kind of book you’ll either love or hate. It’s not great literature, but it is my kind of story.

Helen Grace is a Detective Inspector for the Southampton police department. British police procedurals aren’t much different than American. Helen’s supervisor is Detective Superintendent Whittaker. Detective Superintendents are similar to Captains in American police departments. Detective Inspectors (DI) are the equivalent of a lieutenant, Detective Sergeants (DS) are the same in both countries, and Detective Constables (DC) are comparable to plainclothes policemen. DS Mark Fuller is Helen’s assistant, and Mark has become an alcoholic since his divorce.

Guilt and shame and desperation play active roles throughout the book. People don’t play nice with other people, and Helen Grace’s job is to figure out motives for murder if she hopes to find the killer. This is a whodunit, and the only real clue is that the serial killer is a woman. Her MO is to isolate two people who know each other, trap them in a place they can’t escape from, phone them to tell them she will let one of them out if one shoots the other one, starve them nearly to death, and release the shooter only after he or she kills the other captive. There may or may not be a connection between the victims and Helen (she knows some of the victims personally). Is the killer targeting people close to Helen Grace? Why?

There are more than a few nasty complications to keep the story interesting. Helen is no saint, and she has more than a few skeletons hiding in her own closet dying to get out. The story is the kind of down and dirty little thriller I really enjoy reading. The chapters are short, the viewpoints shift from one character to another with almost every chapter, and the pace escalates as the high-stakes game plays out. No one escapes unscathed. The best the characters can hope for is to emerge alive at the end

Arlidge isn’t the most skilled writer, but the storyline is original and the prose readable and often gripping. Eeny Meeny is a cliffhanger with one cliff after another adding to the hurdles characters must surmount. Penguin is releasing four of Arlidge’s DI Grace tales later this year in paperback and digital editions. I intend to read them all.



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