This police procedural is not about identifying the killer as the reader knows who it is from page one, but a chase against time. Will the police stop him before he completes his series of murders? Follow the Leader is the second in the DS Allie Shenton series by Mel Sherratt and, as well as being a story in its own right, it continues the thread of Allie’s story and of her sister Karen. So much so that the ending made me want to pick up book three and keep reading.
The story is told in the present time from the viewpoint of the murderer, and Allie, plus flashbacks to schoolchildren in 1983. There is bullying, nastiness and violence at home. Patrick keeps his head down, hoping not to be noticed. Unfortunately for him, he has ‘victim’ written all over him. The schooldays segments are horribly realistic. The setting of Stoke-on-Trent is a critical part of this book and it is clear Sherratt is describing real places. The first body is found on the canal towpath. A man was walking his dog, in the same place, at the same time, as he always does. The next victim is a woman. Both have coloured magnetic letters left on the body.
The murders come thick and fast, the police are twisting and turning but the murderer has planned meticulously and remains one step ahead. There are many characters, most of which were at school in 1983, though the identities are muddled with the use of nicknames. As we see the former schoolfriends now, going about their daily life, we wonder who will be next.
Patrick is a difficult character to like or sympathize with despite his abusive childhood. Towards the end Sherratt does consider whether someone can change, can leave behind their violent past. Unfortunately the unthinking cruelty of teenagers to each other has consequences, but there is never an excuse for murder.
‘Follow the Leader’ by Mel Sherratt, #2 Allie Shenton [UK: Thomas & Mercer] Buy at Amazon
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