Written by Katy Walters — Death Marks is the crime fiction debut of independently published author Katy Walters, and the first in her Symbolist series featuring DCI Dan Redd and DS Felicity Dove. Set in and around Brighton, it has already been followed up with a second book, Death Chords. The book introduces us to Dr Tess Davies, a symbologist who joins the invetigative team as a consultant specialising in ancient druid symbols and practices.
The novel opens with two young boys discovering two brutally mutilated bodies in a local beauty spot. The victims have been tattooed, disemboweled and decapitated, and the head of one of the victims is missing from the crime scene. DCI Redd and his team aren’t quite sure what they’re up against although all the signs point to there being a ritual element to the murders. But are they dealing with a serial killer, or a crazed gang?
Once the victims’ identities are established, Redd quickly realises that he’s going to need the help of a profiler to work out how and why they were targeted but with their usual consultant away he finds himself knocking on the door of Dr Tess Davies, an American researcher who specialises in the strange and unusual. She also admits to being a practicing druid. With Davies’ help, Redd and his team begin to piece together the meanings behind the symbols left at the crime scene but the body count and coded messages start to grow, and they soon find themselves in a race against time when another young couple suddenly disappear.
Its graphic, brutal and at times you’ll find yourself wincing just as much as the detectives who discover the crime scenes. This is definitely not one for the faint hearted as the descriptions in this book make it very easy for the reader to picture what’s happened. As crime fiction debuts go, it’s not a bad one although there are times when there is too much unnecessary detail which slows the story, and now and again the characterisation seems a little over the top. Having said that, this is a book that despite one or two rough edges does have plenty of substance and could progress on towards a pretty gripping police procedural series.
The partnership between the police detectives Redd and Dove doesn’t seem to establish itself particularly well – they’re both your archetypal dysfunctional coppers with unhappy back stories. However, the dynamic between Redd and the profiler Davies does take off and run. The rapport between them is evident from their first meeting and in some ways you don’t mind that, to a certain degree, the Redd’s real partner Dove slips into the background somewhat.
You might have to persevere for the first few chapters as it takes a while to get into the flow, but Death Marks keeps up the momentum and, more importantly, keeps you interested enough to want to find out whether Redd and Davies will solve the mystery before there’s a complete blood bath.
Oakwood House Publishing
CFL Rating: 3 Stars