by S. J. Bolton
Macmillan/St. Martin's Press
Review copy from amazon vine courtesy of the publisher.
Cambridge University has been suffering a spate of suicides, more than would be statistcally be expected. Most of the victims have been very attractive young women, again a statistical anomaly. Psychiatrist Dr. Evi Oliver, new head of the student counselling service is worried that something else might be going on. Detective Lacey Flint is sent in deep undercover to post as a depression-prone, potential suicidal student. Dr. Oliver and her boss, Mark Joesbury are the only two who know who Lacey really is and soon she doesn't just feel alone on the campus, she is. Some of the young women reported bad dreams before they died, that they felt like someone was watching them all the time and they wake up sometimes with no memory of where they've been or what they've done.
Lacey soon starts investigating on her own, even though her brief was to stay low-profile and not rock the boat. All the victims had one thing in common, before they died they all reported being scared. They each had different phobias, different fears and they killed themselves by different methods. Is there some sort of cyber-bullying going on at Cambridge targeting the vulnerable or is something else going on? Lacey is determined to get to the bottom of it, but before she does she starts having weird dreams, just like all the others.
Dead Scared was a fast-paced thriller that kept me gripped from the very first page. I just couldn't seem to turn them fast enough to find out what was going to happen next. We've met Evi Oliver before in Blood Harvest and I was glad to see her back again, I love her as a character. Lacey and Joesbury first appeared in Now You See Me and I have a feeling they will back for more criminal adventures soon.
I've read quite a few thrillers and a lot of the time I can guess who the bad guy or bad guys were, but in this one I didn't figure it out until quite near the end, which was a treat for me.
This is more of a personal preference, but the Lacey parts were written from a first-person perspective, which is not my favourite. But it's testament to the strength of the writing that after a while I didn't notice and just got engrossed in the story.
An excellent thriller.
Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of The Chosen