Scare Me to Death by CJ Carver – 2021

Well, overactive, synesthetic Detective Constable Lucy Davies and shonky memory “attracted danger like blood attracted sharks” Dan Forrester, are back. And they are in a ripper of a thriller, dealing with bombs on planes, public hysteria, and shocking family secrets.

The story picks up not long after their last adventure, Know me now, with Lucy still suffering the effects of being kidnapped, but she now has DI Faris MacDonald, ‘Mac’, for support. Dan is still with Jenny, and with Poppy the dog, daughter Aimee, and Lucy is now godmother to their baby boy, Mischa.

Lucy declines when a friend of her Mum’s asks her to help her son Ricky, who has been arrested for murder. But then the friend offers information about Lucy’s long-scarpered father in return. Lucy still can’t get over her father running off with his yoga instructor many years ago, and then, after a few e-mails, completely ending all contact with his daughter. The chance to find out more about him is irresistible.

The police call Dan in for an interview when it appears the dead woman Kaitlyn, who Ricky is accused of murdering, knew Dan. But with his loss of “great chunks of his memory” Dan doesn’t remember her. But then a nightmare reveals Dan had saved Kaitlyn’s life in a catastrophic air crash 16 years previously, and the life of her younger brother, Josh. Josh is now permanently in care due to injuries sustained during the crash.

Lucy and Dan soon realise Kaitlyn was on the trail of finding out the truth behind the crash, which had killed her parents and permanently damaged her brother. And that she had entrapped Ricky. But what had she found out, and how is Ricky, an accountant, caught up in it? Ricky’s client list gives some of the answers, as at least one is on the wrong side of the law, that one being Teflon Tom – an old school friend of Lucy and Ricky’s.

Lucy and Dan’s independent investigations lead to Morocco and a conspiracy with the potential for international carnage. Although a high-up Moroccan politician is involved, there appears to be a mysterious British mastermind behind it all, “ruthless as a crocodile and as cunning as a snake”.

Meanwhile Lucy is getting more and more unsure what to believe of what she is finding out about her father – is he a spy, a criminal, an undercover cop, an anti-racism campaigner, or just a jerk who took off and left his wife and daughter? And it doesn’t help that her mother is being particularly unforthcoming. Lucy doesn’t know which, if either, of her parents to believe. She ends up quite at a loss, “She wondered when she’d laugh again. It felt like an alien concept”. She also ends up quite sloshed at one point, and thankful that Mac and Dan have her back.  

Dan continues getting into trouble at home and abroad, worrying about Lucy while he does. When an airline flight attendant he knows comes down with symptoms which are initially thought to be caused by aerotoxicity, a poisoning caused by breathing contaminated aircraft air, another strand of the story emerges – the rapid spread of fear amongst the public, and those willing to encourage that spread to make a buck, or a million.

The story rips along, despite Lucy and Dan continually banging into brick walls, as people are too scared to talk for fear of the consequences – it is no coincidence that Kaitlyn ended up dead. When you do find out what is going on, and it is all nicely linked, poverty and a disastrous upbringing are given as the reason behind appalling atrocities, and the lack of loyalty to long-time partners. But this is adroitly countered by Dan refusing to put a boy he has only just met in danger, and Lucy determined to find justice for a woman she has never met. And it is encouraging that some crimes are even too despicable for criminals to tolerate.

Scare me to death is full of great characters, some of whom are the same character changing their names over time. The coincidences we are used to from the series are here again, this time explained by “six degrees of separation” and the Lord working in “mysterious ways”, they add texture to the plot. And Lucy is interestingly conflicted between being a cop and regaining her lost time as a daughter – there is a finely depicted scene where her parents finally meet again.  

The novel is full of mysteries and thrills, and there is even a hostage swap. Lucy, Dan, and their relationship are all holding up over time, those following the Dan Forrester series will be satisfied with the story arc, and those new to the series can read it as a standalone. And there is a hint about future installments – excellent!

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