I haven’t read the first in this series about criminologist Will Traynor, and to be honest I’m a bit puzzled about why it’s called the Will Traynor series at all, because the protagonist of this book seems to be Detective Inspector Watts, the senior investigating officer into a series of carjackings in Birmingham which appear to have escalated to murder. Watts calls Traynor in because he’s uncertain whether the carjackings and the murder are really connected, and then frankly, Traynor makes an absolute mess of questioning the crucial witness, not pressing her on anything and failing to see some massive clues glaring him in the face. It’s good old-fashioned police work which solves the case, questioning witnesses and following up on forensics.
It’s a reasonably solid police procedural but despite one dead body, the stakes feel pretty low. There’s no imminent peril to any of the protagonists and despite, in theory, a carjacker with a gun running around shooting people at random in order to steal their valuables, Traynor and the police officers he’s working with don’t seem to be remotely worried about potential future victims. Not once does anyone say “We have to catch this guy before he does it again!” It’s almost as though they know the eventual outcome, in which it transpires that there never was a significant threat to anyone else, in advance.
We spend much more time in Watts’ POV than in Traynor’s, and we still barely get to know Watts. He appears to be in a relationship with the forensic psychologist, but we never get to see them together. Another random character turns up in the middle of the book, observes the investigation for a bit, serves as an object of a crush for another character, and then leaves again without really affecting the story; they could and should have been cut entirely, and it wouldn’t have affected the story in the slightest.
Realistically, this needed a firm content edit to tighten things up, cut unnecessary characters and scenes, and to increase the stakes - or at least, increase what the characters THOUGHT the stakes were, even if the ending remains the same. The lack of any real tension meant the story struggled to retain my attention. I wouldn’t bother reading anything else in this series or by this author; I can only give it two stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.