The Christmas Killer: The debut thriller in a gripping new British detective crime fiction series (DI James Walker series, Book 1)

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The Christmas Killer: The debut thriller in a gripping new British detective crime fiction series (DI James Walker series, Book 1)

The Christmas Killer: The debut thriller in a gripping new British detective crime fiction series (DI James Walker series, Book 1)

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Using the twelve days of christmas was a creative way to keep the novel at a steady pace and hints at a dramatic ending, the book did not disappoint! At times I was second guessing who the murder might have been as there are plenty of red herrings and clues throughout.

I have read many thrillers this year, and I must say that this was one I definitely enjoyed, and admittedly even more so because its a Christmas thriller. There’s just something about holiday stories, whether it be a cozy romance or a suspenseful thriller, that makes it that much more fun and enjoyable to read. A village crime thriller, in the vein of The Midsomer Murders, it will keep you guessing right until the end. Full of twists and turns with everyone a suspect, the story takes an interesting look at family dynamics along with the complexities and intricacies of relationships between friends and lovers. Blame and guilt emerge as key issues in the search for the killer with resentments and distrust at the forefront. I had a few suspects lined up as I was going through the story, and one by one they were eliminated until I had absolutely no idea who the killer was. When the killer is revealed at the end of the book, it was interesting to see how the clues had been there but cleverly hidden by the author.

DI James Walker Books In Order

With each murder James and Annie learn more about each victim's life, and how intertwined with each they were - this reminded me of the Miss Marple books. It's almost Christmas and Walker's thoughts are about decorating, buying presents, and his wife has invited his whole family to spend Christmas with them. Returning home after another long day, he finds an early Christmas on his front porch. When DI James Walker opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half frozen in the snow. A DI moves to a small village, hoping for a new, peaceful start but soon bodies start appearing, one for each of the 12 days for Christmas all while a raging snowstorm is impending. But the investigations are all going in a loop since everyone in the village has a nasty secret to hide, some secrets, very close to home.

For me, this read like a Midsummer’s Murders storyline – a local murder spree with village spite and secrets and rivalries all being played out through murder. So DI James moves his family from London to the Cumbrian village his wife grew up in, in the anticipation of a safer life. There had been threats – or so he believed – against his family in London and his wife was increasingly nervous living there. Her home village was small – less than 1000 people, and set in a lovely part of the world – Cumbria is great – if you can take the weather – another wet, windy and cold area of the world.This is another great thriller by the author. What should have been the best day of her life, Libby's wedding turns into a murder investigation. All the potential suspects are her wedding guests. This is a fast paced, gripping read with plenty of twist and turns. DI James Walker and his team know they won't be spending the New Year holidays the way they had planned. I was pulled into this story at the beginning, and it held my attention throughout. This series gets better with each new book. This book could be read as a standalone. I requested a digital advanced readers copy from NetGalley and Avon and providing my opinion voluntarily and unbiased. Maybe it’s because I am a complete Christmas Elf myself, but there is something about the atmosphere of an English Christmas that always appeals to me, and to me, Alex Pine captured the atmosphere of an English village at Christmastime beautifully. Granted, the language was sometimes a little bit stilted – I honestly don’t think people speak quite as formally as Pine’s characters do – but the book read easily and I zoomed through it, finding it an easy and engaging read all round. And what is Annie's uncle Bill's role in the grand scheme of things, he's arrived early to spend Christmas with Annie and James but seems to be acting oddly? When I selected this book, I wasn’t aware that this was the 3rd volume in a series, but thankfully there is an intro chapter which gives an overview on who the characters are, what their relationship is, some non-spoiler highlights from the previous books and it makes the listener / reader feel confident to continue without having all the details. I think the synopsis from the cover gives just the right amount of info, so I’ll include it below for reference:

Never knowing what you are going to get when reading from a new author to me, I have to go in with an open mind. This book didn't disappoint, It was interesting, enthralling and gripping. In blizzard like conditions a body is found in the snow – the potential first victim with eleven more to follow if the killer isn’t stopped… Set in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside the isolated location and insular lives of his neighbours, where everyone knows everyone else, is used to both help and hinder James's investigation and hopefully sets the scene for more novels in the future. I could overlook that if the story was descent- but there isn’t much here for me to recommend. The characters and dialogue are wooden and stiff, and I guessed, not only who the killer was, very early on- but the motive was also apparent, which didn’t give me much incentive to hang around to see how DI Walker would connect the dots.

We also" hear" from each victim just before they are murdered - which I thought was an interesting addition since it's usually the killer. Overall, I was impressed at the meat of this book and I would recommend it as a “light” murder mystery read. There were some issues on the periphery of the book that needed work, such as some of the language being a bit stilted, and tightening up of the plot in one or two places, but overall, I think Alex Pine has crafted a good whodunnit mystery that is atmospheric and enjoyable. I will definitely be looking out for more of his work in the future!

A strongly developed thriller with an interesting case, The Winter Killer is a hard-to-predict investigation with a wedding-clad party full of guests to suspect. I would definitely still recommend this book, especially if you want an easy thriller to read over the colder months. But if Pine intends to write a fourth book, I just hope he gets a little more daring. This book has such an intriguing storyline, as it features a serial killer stalking a small village, killing his victims in a “twelve days of Christmas” manner; he leaves messages on Christmas Cards, and then goes in for the kill. I guessed pretty early on who the killer was, but that didn’t deter me from carrying on reading and exposing if my theory was right. Gripping and utterly entertaining, this is a mystery that is very well crafted, like an artfully decorated gingerbread house.

Diaries & Calendars

Despite my criticisms, this is a good candidate for a Christmas read. Aside from the obvious, it is not too gory or gritty to make you feel uncomfortable at such a festive time of year. Indeed, it almost felt like a cosy mystery because I could not fathom any danger and was not gripped by the plot development. Instead, it was a gentle read that eventually provided dead bodies and, finally, a killer at the end. But while The Winter Killer is a highly enjoyable book, what's let me down is the title, as it always annoys me when a thriller is promoted as being more sinister than it actually is. Because for me, there definitely wasn't enough winter or killing.

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