Pop Goes the Weasel, by M.J. Arlidge***

popgoestheweaselPop Goes the Weasel is the second in a detective series featuring Helen Grace. Thank you to Net Galley and Random House-Penguin for the DRC. The title goes up for sale October 6.

Arlidge is an experienced, confident writer. The opening of the book is among the best openers I have seen for quite awhile:

“The fog crept in from the sea, suffocating the city. It descended like an invading army, consuming landmarks, choking out the moonlight, rendering Southampton a strange and unnerving place.”

The tone is thus set for a grisly murder mystery, the perfect mood for an October read.

The premise here is that someone is murdering men that seek the services of prostitutes, and their slayer doesn’t merely kill the men, but eviscerates them without the courtesy of killing them first. Well, this may not be exactly evisceration: they aren’t removing their digestive tracts, but rather their hearts. And while I read that description before requesting this DRC, I should have dwelt on it a moment or two longer, because this particular story really passed my “ick” threshold, and it was my own fault for not being more careful in reading the promotional description.

That said, although it was a bit much for me, it probably won’t be for you, not if you watch a lot of cop shows on television or view a lot of adrenaline-pumping movies that feature violence. That said, I would also steer away anyone who has recently had a death in the family. The descriptions of the cadavers were so explicit that you may find your mind making leaps you didn’t count on.

Grace’s situation is linked to things that happened in Arlidge’s first in the series, and they are referred to often. You may be better off reading these in order. I didn’t read the first, and although I was able to keep up just fine in terms of following plot and character motivation, I felt a little as if I were a guest at someone else’s family dinner. There were so many little undercurrents that referred to Grace’s earlier experiences, as well as those of Charlie, another cop who’d been in the previous story as well, that I felt a bit left out. I also had difficulty, for the first half of the story, keeping Helen and Charlie distinct from one another, and this part I chalk up to the author’s failure to adequately describe each of them. Whether it is the first or tenth in a series, the author has an obligation to provide a clear picture of the protagonist as well as other important characters. That didn’t happen here. Eventually I understood the motivations of each, as well as a good deal of Helen Grace’s internal characteristics, but I never was able to form enough of a mental picture of their appearances to make a mental movie. At times, I felt as if the explicit gore and sex were substitutions for character development. The plot itself was a trifle formulaic.

For those that read the first in the series and enjoyed it, this second in the series is bound to please. It is to those readers that I recommend this mystery.

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