Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Preacher Boy, by Gwyn GB

Chalky Dog Publishing, June 2021

Harrison Lane is a psychologist working for the London Metropolitan Police as a civilian expert in ritualistic behavioral crimes. His own background is unusual, to say the least. His mother led a bohemian life, was involved in a rather alarming cult, and also, in one of the most positive formative experiences of Harrison's life, lived with one of the Shadow Wolves, a group of Native American trackers who work to prevent smuggling along the Mexico-USA border in Arizona.

After returning to the UK, Harrison's mother was murdered, and that became a major motivation for him to not only study psychology, but to study ritualistic behavior associated with criminal activity. He's determined to solve his mother's murder, but along the way, he also works with the police to solve crimes rooted in the same ritualistic criminal behavior.

One fine morning, he is called to the site where the body of a young boy has been found. The boy disappeared a couple of weeks ago, but he's newly dead, in a park, with a wooden cross set next to him, and paper with Bible verses in his mouth.

It appears that the boy wasn't necessarily intentionally killed, but died of the stress of his confinement in a small space. There are traces of teak oil on his body. While the police, both uniform and homicide detectives, try to trace the more conventional clues, Lane is trying to puzzle out the significance of the Bible verses chosen, and says that the perpetrator is likely a man with deep and very strict religious views, may have recently stopped attending church, and may have recently suffered a significant change or loss in his life. It's not a lot to go on, but it's what they have, for now.

Then another child is taken. Again a young boy, very similar in size and appearance to the first.

With all the intense demands of the case, now an apparent serial killer case, the police unit working on it is under other stresses. They're short-staffed, and may have to borrow personnel from other units. One detective sergeant, a very good detective, is a new father, and his wife is suffering from post-partum depression--and she can't accept that this is not abnormal and that she's neither weak nor a bad mother if she gets help for it.

Harrison Lane himself is experiencing  buried memories from his childhood returning, traumatic events that include his mother, and is encountering possible clues to the people he suspects of her murder.

Lane and the detective sergeant are clashing partly because of the detective sergeant's doubts about Lane's admittedly strange methods and quite creepily decorated office, and partly because the detective sergeant needs an outlet for his stress.

It's a fascinating mystery, and a fascinating collection of compelling characters, who develop and grow over the course of the story. This includes some strong women characters, most notably Detective Chief Inspector Sandra Barker, and crime scene manager Dr. Tanya Jones.

This is an excellent mystery and well worth your time. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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