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Book Bites: 26 August

Published in the Sunday Times

Perfect Death *****
Helen Fields, HarperCollins, R215

A naked girl freezes to death on a wintry hillside, but her killer doesn’t enjoy the actual murder. He is sustained by the grief of those who loved the victim. Readers are soon inside the head of the serial killer, and stay a step ahead of Edinburgh cop Luc Callanach. He has complex feelings for Detective Chief Inspector Ava Turner. She’s equally disturbed by the sexual tension, but both keep their guard up as deaths multiply, and police corruption emerges. The tale accelerates to a violent climax and a twist ending. It weaves a bright new thread into the school of “tartan noir” police procedurals and follows two bestsellers: Perfect Remains and Perfect Prey. Tom Learmont

The Tall Man **
Phoebe Locke, Headline, R265

According to a Daily Express quote on the jacket, Locke’s novel is the “must-read summer chiller”. But the only chills I felt while reading this “thriller” was that of Joburg’s winter. The premise is simple: in the early ’90s three girls pledge their devotion to a mysterious figure known as (yes, you guessed it) the Tall Man. This man (who is lank tall. Like, we get it) promises to make these girls “special”. Fast-forward a few decades where the disappearance of a young mother (in 2000) and a brutal murder possibly committed by a teenage girl (in 2018) might just be linked to that one fateful night in an English forest in 1990. The plot drags and Locke’s incessant references to the Tall Man’s height and pseudo-supernatural allusions make this a tiring and confusing read. Mila de Villiers @mila_se_kind

The Anomaly ****
Michael Rutger, Bonnier, R265

Nolan Moore, host of a struggling online reality show investigating archaeological anomalies, leads his crew to a mythical cavern deep in the Grand Canyon, using a century-old newspaper clipping as his guide. In a scenario horror fans know all too well, once Nolan and co are deep inside the cave, rejoicing at their scoop, it all begins to go pear-shaped. Within hours, they are trapped deep under the earth with almost no food, light or water. Then they realise they are not alone … And the plot deteriorates into absurdity – with murders, monsters, and betrayals. But the writing is superb; sharp, witty and intelligent, with refreshingly good grammar. Think one of the more ludicrous episodes of the X-Files, but scripted by Oscar Wilde. Aubrey Paton

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