Black Road by Tania Carver (Pegasus, Aug. 2014)-The Black Road (Choked in the UK) is my first thriller by Tania Carver (the British writing duo of Martyn and Linda Waites), and it won’t be my last. It’s actually book 4 in the series featuring DI Phil Brennan and his now wife, criminal psychologist Marina Esposito. The focus in this one, however, is on Marina, because in the first scene, the cottage that they’ve been vacationing at is set on fire and Phil is seriously injured, along with Phil’s mother, and the subsequent blast actually kills his father. Marina, somehow, ends up outside of the cottage, and when she comes to (after being “rescued” by a mysterious stranger), her first thought is of her 3 year old daughter Josephina, but no sign of Josephina is found in the cottage. Then, in the hospital, Marina gets a phone call from someone claiming to have her daughter, but she’s prohibited from telling anyone and must follow the caller’s instructions herself in order to get Josephina back, but this is no simple kidnapping, and it may have to do with a case that Marina handled a long time ago, at the beginning of her career.
Sometimes, I need a fast paced procedural to scratch my thriller itch and The Black Road was just the ticket. I identified with Marina’s desperation and willingness to go to just about any lengths to get her little girl back, and Carver serves up a “family” of criminals that will make your skin crawl. Their henchman, who they only call The Golem (he’s huge, has grey skin, is preternaturally quiet, and prefers to use his hands to do his dirty work), is very, very creepy, and although he does get a bit of a backstory, it doesn’t really alleviate that creepiness all that much (maybe a little, but not too much.) I actually found him quite compelling and think they could do quite a lot more with his character, but I digress. Back to Marina. While she follows the kidnappers’ directives, her husband Phil lies unconscious in the hospital, which only serves to ramp up her desperation, and although this is outside her department’s turf, it doesn’t keep her fellow cops from helping in any way they can, while DS Jessica James and her partner DC Deepak Shah (I want more of the enigmatic Shah), are following leads stemming from the explosion. To be clear, there’s no new ground being broken here, where the genre is concerned, but you won’t care, seriously, because things move so fast, and the bad guys (and girls) are so damn weird that you’ll be hooked.
This book has been compared to Mo Hayder’s work and I’d have to agree that if you like her books, you’ll most likely enjoy this one. It’s got a depraved, coldly psychopathic family at its core, and of course, the urgency of a little girl in peril will have you turning the pages. There is, of course, a bit of a twist, and it all comes together in a thriller that’s just pure, creepy fun. This clocks in at nearly 450 pages, but I read it in one late night. The chapters are also fairly brief, so it completely lends itself to that just-one-more-chapter urge.