Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review of Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips (Hachette, 2012)

A young girl who has been missing for two days is discovered buried in a secluded plot beneath elderberry trees in the Dublin Mountains.  She’s been folded into a position of prayer, her hands clasped, her hair braided with red ribbons.  Detective Inspector O’Connor is assigned to investigate the case and immediately contacts criminal profiler, Kate Pearson.  The evidence from the crime scene unnerves Kate, suggesting that the murderer will strike again.  The following day another girl disappears who reassembles in appearance the first.  As well as the pressure of her domestic troubles, Kate is being pushed to help identify the killer and predict his next move.  Meanwhile in the north of the city, Ellie, a patient confined to a psychiatric hospital has finally broken her silence on the death of her daughter fifteen years earlier; a murder she denies committing.  What she has to say echoes with the recent deaths.  Is she imagining the connection or is the same killer at work?   

Louise Phillips’ debut novel, Red Ribbons is a psychological police procedural set over a few autumn days.  The story is told through three alternating voices: the killer’s, Kate Pearson’s and Ellie’s. Ellie’s voice in particular is very strong and engagingly written, but the characterisation of all three is well developed.  In contrast, the other characters are a little thin and two dimensional.  In particular, Detective Inspector O’Connor as the fourth central character is somewhat of an enigma and the reader learns little about him other than he’s an alpha male and under a lot of pressure.  The writing is a little hesitant at first, but as the story unfolds it becomes progressively more assured and compelling, hooking the reader in.  For the most part the plotting works well, though the timeline felt a little compressed, using a couple of plot devices to move the story along.  Given the structure, where the reader knows the killer and his thoughts, the tale is more of a why-dunnit and whether he’ll get away with it than a who-dunnit.  Yet, despite the relative transparency of the plot, Phillips manages to keep the tension high right to the final page.  Indeed, from about halfway-on it was quite engrossing and I raced through to the end.  Overall, an entertaining psychological thriller.


1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - It sounds as though this is one of those novels that sneaks up on one,despite the one or two things you mentioned. I may look out for this, so thanks for the recommendation.