Anyone who follows me on social media will know that I spend as much time reading and falling in love with books as I do writing them. I have read so many good books in 2017, including Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton, Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood and Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (not out until 2018), all of which stand out for very different reasons.
You might also know I’m a huge fan of crime and thriller novels, and if I can get my teeth stuck into a good crime series, then even better. Well, I now have a new favourite series, complete with one of the best fictional detectives I’ve ever come across who, in only two books, has stalked his way into my heart.
I downloaded Perfect Remains by Helen Fields to my Kindle because it was 99p and Avon Books, the HarperCollins imprint who publish it, seemed rather excited about it on Twitter. (And, while I shouldn’t be biased, HarperCollins do publish some rather good books). Because of my overburdened reading pile it took me a while to start it, but when I did I quickly realised I had discovered something special.
Helen Fields’ books are set in Edinburgh, and the cases are investigated by DI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach. Ava Turner is fiery and determined, but she’s also funny, warm and kind – she hasn’t sacrificed her empathy for ambition. Luc Callanach is half Scottish and half French, and has recently returned to Scotland after his Interpol career ended in less than happy circumstances. A former model, he’s sometimes remote and short tempered, and to begin with I struggled to warm to him. But then, as he started working with DI Turner, I stopped struggling, and I began to warm to him like a marshmallow turning slowly over a camp fire. I melted.
By the end of the first book I was hooked – I’m sure I stopped breathing a few times, and then I went online immediately to find out when the second book in the series, Perfect Prey, was coming out. I only had a couple of months to wait, and the sense of relief was huge. Avon Books very kindly (or under duress – I may have pestered a bit) sent me a proof last week, and I managed to make it last all of two days, and that was exercising my utmost restraint. Needless to say, I liked it quite a lot.
I was trying to work out why I love these books so much, why they resonate with me more than most other series I enjoy. They feel like they’ve been written for me; they fulfil every single thing I like about crime thrillers, and it’s such a brilliant feeling when you find a book like that. We are Made For Each Other.
Firstly, I love Edinburgh, it’s one of my favourite places in the world; it has a wonderful atmosphere, it’s historic and modern and sinister and welcoming all at the same time, and so any novel set there immediately has me on side. Then there are the crimes, which are complex, original and scary – definitely at the top end of grizzly – with killers who are unique and unpredictable. There are always more lives at stake, and that adds so much tension, and to the pressure put on the detectives solving the case.
Then, of course, there are the characters. DI Turner and DI Callanach have a brilliant supporting cast of officers and civilians that help them get to the truth. Helen Fields has such a clever way of teasing out the plot, so that with every turned page you care more about Luc, Ava and their team, and by the end are as ragged as if you’d been involved in the chase yourself.
And Luc Callanach is, without a doubt, my new favourite tortured hero. I love him even more than I love Wolf in Ragdoll, which is saying a lot.
DI Luc Callanach is brooding but focussed, he puts everything aside to catch the killers; personal safety, procedure, happiness, sleep. He’s always in just the right amount of danger that you’re constantly worried about him. He’s gorgeous, he has a French accent – he’s undeniably attractive in lots of ways – but he’s often distant, he makes himself untouchable, and underneath everything he’s battling with the repercussions of events in his past. He’s a complicated character – the phrase ‘tortured hero’ puts him in a box that doesn’t really do him justice – and his relationship with Ava Turner is as compelling as the crimes they’re trying to solve.
They’re gripping, brilliant, addictive books, and knowing that I only have to wait until January for number three, called Perfect Death – the title alone makes me a bit trembly – means that things are, I think, going to be OK. I’ve set up a new collection on my Kindle, I’ll download Perfect Prey on Thursday despite having the proof, so I can keep books one and two in my handbag at all times (can anyone say “book geek”?) I can cope with six months . . . just about.
So if you’re stuck in a reading rut, wondering what to try next or looking for a new author to sweep you away, and you don’t mind your stories dark and gruesome, then look no further. But a word of warning . . . you might well find yourself counting down the days until your next Luc Callanach fix, just like I am.