Written by Tania Carver — A new Tania Carver book is always something to celebrate, particularly if you like your crime, dark, disturbing and mega-gruesome. But novels by husband and wife team Martyn and Linda Waites are definitely not for the faint-hearted. I’ll give you a couple of examples. The story opens with a crossbow death that shares nothing with The Golden Shot or Bernie the Bolt – and a later scene has ensured I’ll never be able to look at my gas hob in the same way again.
Meet a madman who dubs himself The Lawgiver and whose twisted sense of justice leads him to murder and mutilate at will. Worst of all, he believes he is doing good, and for some reason sees Phil Brennan as a kindred spirit.
Truth or Dare is the sixth in the series featuring DI Phil Brennan and his wife, criminal psychologist Marina Esposito, but while normally we find them working together, this time the pair are kept apart by circumstances beyond their control. Phil has a misguided vigilante on his hands in Birmingham, and Marina is called back to their old stomping ground in Essex to offer an evaluation on a woman who admits to having killed eight of her own newborn babies. It’s a task that could have been handled by someone living closer, and Marina’s suspicions are proved correct when DC Anni Hepburn and DS Mickey Phillips admit to having an ulterior motive. What they reveal sends Marina reeling – and sets her on a course that will ultimately lead to disaster.
Marina is disturbed by what she has learned, but can’t share her fears with Phil, who is up to his eyes in a case that is escalating out of control – much like the perpetrator of the crimes. The Lawgiver is out to set right perceived wrongs and when he catches up with perpetrators he has a unique way of dealing with them. The Truth or Dare title is an apt one, but what might once have been the preserve of children’s games and boozy parties gets a macabre twist here as the phrase ‘making the punishment fit the crime’ is taken all too literally.
Alongside the parallel story lines involving Phil and Marina is a third involving a reformed street gang boss and a prostitute who together pique the old fashioned copper’s instinct of Phil’s second in command, DS Ian Sperring. It is inevitable that the three strands eventually wind themselves into one, but I’m guessing it is probably not in a way you’d expect…
It is a skilful author who can create a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat from page one, and this double act are past masters at ratcheting up the tension. The Doll’s House was a nail biter par excellence and must have been a hard act to follow but never fear, Tania Carver has delivered again in a story that will play havoc with the manicure, and with enough loose ends to ensure that another is on the way.
Truth or Dare is a book destined to haunt your dreams (or should that be nightmares?) so don’t make the mistake of reading it in bed or you are in for a sleepless night. Several scenes still leave me cringing days after they were indelibly etched into my memory bank. Damn you, Tania Carver! When can I expect the next instalment?
CFL Rating: 5 Stars