Review: Portraits of the Dead

Courtesy of John Nicholl

Book Title: Portraits of the Dead
Author: John Nicholl
Series: None (with reoccurring characters)
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Crime Fiction

Date Read: 09/05/16
Pub Date: 08/14/16


Emma didn’t know how long he hid, silent and unmoving, in the large Victorian wardrobe to the side of her single bed. She didn’t know how long he peered, salivating and drooling, between the two heavy dark oak doors, and watched, mesmerised, as she slowly drifted into fitful sleep. She didn’t know what time he pushed the doors open and crept towards her in the drab grey darkness of the night.

Detective Inspector Gravel finds himself floundering when a local nineteen-year-old university student is abducted and imprisoned by a sadistic serial killer, who has already tortured and killed at least five young women.

The greater the evil, the more deadly the game… How far would you go to save your life?

As a parent, I’m immensely glad I have many years before sending my daughters off to college. After reading this, I found an all-consuming terror that must fill the hearts of adults with mostly grown children, especially girls. I’ve decided to simply place a brick on each of their heads and keep them from growing up (that works right?!). Whatever the case, this book did a fine job of instilling the terror that it was meant to in this mama right here. If you are looking for a fast paced thriller that falls on the darker side of the spectrum, look no further.

The story is tense from the beginning, as we get a glimpse into the horror that Emma experiences once she wakes up to realize she’s been kidnapped and held hostage. We have no idea what is to come at this point, only that she is not this monster’s first victim and she is in for a whole heap of nightmares galore. The entire book is dark, disturbing, and heavy; clearly not for every reader, but if you enjoy this type of read it’s worthy of adding to your ever growing TBR list. Other reviews have touched on this, but you could also shelve this under “Police Procedural-Crime Fiction”, although its not heavy on this style. Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more from the detective’s side, but we do get a nice insight on the relationship between Emma and her captor.

The reason this was a 4 STAR for me was that I did figure out who the villain was before the “unveiling”, but I know a great number of people who were shocked by the twist and I think most people will be. The author did a fantastic job of setting up the reveal and clearly put in a great deal of effort to make his story a gripping and compulsive read. This is my first read by John Nicholl, but I am looking forward to checking out his two previous novels. Again, highly recommended for lovers of dark fiction with a fast pace. This was a fantastic read where I didn’t have to think or become too involved but was able to be fully entertained. I’m very excited to see what he puts out next and will be keeping my eyes peeled!

* I received my copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you John Nicholl!

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