Like This, For Ever (2013) (Lost in the U.S.) (Bantam Press)
S. J. Bolton
Genre: gothic thriller horror
Sex scenes: n/a, but seriously the most frustrating sexual tension I've ever read
Lacey Flint series: (1) Now You See Me, (1.5) If Snow Hadn't Fallen, (2) Dead Scared, (3) Like This, For Ever
S. J. Bolton scares the living shit out of me.
And yes, that’s exaggerating just a little, but it’s 3:24am, I’ve been reading for something like 5 hours, couldn’t wait to start reviewing and considering how much of my EU essay I’ve neglected, I’m in the exaggerating mood.
In just eight weeks, five young boys between 10 and 11 years old have gone missing around London, and the killer is picking up the pace. The victims are disappearing faster and bodies are turning up quicker; the latest discovery of the bodies of twin brothers Jason and Joshua is just one more reason for parents across the capital to give their sons curfews. It won’t be long before the Met starts getting the blame.
10-year-old Barney is following the case like a hawk, not least because he fits the victim profile. Barney knows that his downstairs-neighbour Lacey works for the police and his clever nature and instincts tell him that Lacey is the perfect person to help him with his own investigations to find the mother that abandoned him. Through Barney, Lacey is drawn into an investigation that she would rather distance herself far, far away from.
It’s been several months since Cambridge and Lacey is still not answering Joesbury’s calls, texts or patient knocks at her door. Officially, she’s still on sick leave and is being forced to attend sessions with a shrink where she lies through her teeth, hiding the insecurities that plague her. She can’t face returning to work, even if it means working sexual offences, the department that she has always dreamed of working in. Barney’s questions and involvement have made it hard to turn him away and before she knows it, Lacey finds herself standing over a dead body – again.
Joesbury might be pleased to see Lacey back in police-work, but others aren’t so happy. DI Dana Tulloch may have once been Lacey’s biggest champion, but circumstances lead her to believe that Lacey has things to hide. Once again, Lacey becomes uncomfortably intertwined with a case that she should have no part in. The police are clueless and the public shit-scared; and as Lacey opens her eyes, it becomes clear that the murders are taking place right under her nose …
I LOVED this book. I love S. J. Bolton and gothic thriller crime, Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury, and the fact that they’re stupid in love with each other but can’t find the guts to act on it. This is a book I wish I could read for the first time, ten million times over, even though every twist and turn is a punch in the gut, because I’m enough of a sadist to want to feel it all over again. Ten million times.
The killings are gruesome. Perhaps not quite so gruesome as those in NYSM, but that’s just because that book is fresher in my mind. Even more gruesome when you find out the identity of the killer.
As in NYSM, we have periodic scenes that you can’t help but assume are flashbacks to the past, and involve Lacey, just because that’s the way it normally works in most books. If it’s one thing that I’ve learnt with Ms Bolton, it’s to never assume anything, but it’s my default position to do it anyway. When you remember that one of Lacey’s defining characteristics is that she’s an unreliable narrator, there’ll be an endless cycle of doubting yourself and questioning your judgement (and, I swear to God, your sanity) until you wouldn’t even mind finding out that you’re the one that’s doing the killing, if it means that you have a straight answer.
Barney is an adorable child. I’ve talked before about my love for kids in romance novels, and I’ve now very satisfactorily discovered that this love extends to other genres too! He’s much too clever and perceptive for his age, to the point that it’s almost scary. Like Tom in Blood Harvest, he’s old enough to recognise the severity of the circumstances, but his youthful curiosity pushes him to explore for himself, which gets him into all kinds of trouble. He’s an indication of Ms Bolton’s amazing breadth as a writer and her ability to delve into the mind of a ten-year-old yet still maintain the tone of the novel throughout is wonderful to read.
This may only make sense in my head, but LTFE saw a return very much to the style of NYSM and it wasn’t until I read LTFE that I realised how very different Dead Scared was. Not that Dead Scared is any lighter, but after the horrific events of NYSM, I think we did need a break from London, Lacey’s history and the whole palava. In putting Lacey undercover as a young, insecure university student at Cambridge, we were permitted a breather to get away from the horrors of London. This wasn’t the only thing we were allowed to escape: in creating a new identity for Lacey, we were briefly able to forget about her past as this new set of events and circumstances drew us in and held us captive. It was a clever move and only served to heighten Lacey’s vulnerability while she was already down.
Is it too much to ask that Lacey and Joesbury get it on already? Back in September, Ms Bolton posted on her Facebook page a romantic excerpt from her Lacey Flint work-in-progress that had she not said that she’d written it, I would never have in a million years attributed it to her. I had mistakenly thought that it was an excerpt from Like This, For Ever and my anticipation levels as I was reading the book were literally through the roof. But no: I was to be disappointed, again. That excerpt is from Lacey Flint #4 which I don’t think even has a definite release date yet (April 2015, going by the previous books?), and I’m going crazy with the need to see Lacey and Joesbury get together. That snippet gives a pretty good indication that they will, but I’ll still cry if they don’t. Hell, I’ll most likely cry either way.
I first heard about the book when the working title was Lost (still the title in the US). The next thing I knew, it had changed to Like This, For Ever and I was having a hell of a time remembering it. Four short words, and yet every time I thought about the book, I would get at least one of those words wrong. For a long time, both before and after I had started reading, the significance of the title was beyond me. I knew it meant something because Ms Bolton had written a blog post about her ineptitude when it came to giving her books a title, but the answer just wasn’t coming through. Then I got to the end of the book when the plot was all unravelled and clicked into place, and all became crystal clear. This is an unbelievably clever title and unless you get all the nuanced clues that run through the book, like me, you’re going to be left hanging until the end. A very clever title, for a very clever book.
So have I persuaded you enough yet? I’ve read shamefully few books so far this year, and in the next three months, that’s going to change. What’s not going to change is that of the 31 that I have read, LTFE makes it into my list of best books of the year – will it be on yours?
Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.