Published by – Allison and Busby
Publication date – 16 February 2017
Source – review copy
“Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt is on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances. Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer to keep buried deep, Matt is on the trail of killer determined to save us all.”
Professor Matt Hunter long ago lost his faith and gave up his role as minister. Now commissioned to write a book debunking faith he also assists the police with religiously motivated crimes. Matt travels to the village of Hobbes Hill with his family, perturbed by the flurry of crosses that fill the buildings. He also comes face to face with his past when the pastor of the local church turns out to be a former theological college student. The beautiful setting seems to be hiding some darker deeds as local women go missing. Matt is soon drawn into the case, hunting a killer determined to send those worthy to heaven.
This is the debut novel by Peter Laws, himself a minister, and is a cracking start to a new crime series.
The book focuses on the fervent and the lapsed, the role that belief or lack of can have on a person. During the course of the investigation Matt is forced to look further into his own loss of faith and how that may have affected his life and the lives of his family.
I had guessed the killer’s identity before the reveal but this did not detract from my enjoyment. I was completely wrapped up in the story until the very end. Peter Laws has a compelling writing style, mixing the comedic with the macabre and the more I read, the more I grew attached to the characters and the story.
Matt Hunter is a great character, funny, acerbic and devoted to his family. He is settled into his role as professor and is enjoys working with the police, investigating religiously motivated crimes. He has a tragic past, one that led him away from his calling as a minister, and the loss of faith resulting from that. During the novel, Matt is forced to face these issues, whilst trying to find a very real and dangerous killer. His wife, Wren is also a good character, perfectly balancing Matt and I look forward to reading more about Matt’s police colleagues in further novels.
Don’t let the religious theme put you off. I’m not remotely religious but I found this book to be a fascinating and gripping novel with a personable and unique protagonist.
A welcome new addition to the crime writing scene, peppered with humour but also thought provoking, dark and traumatic. A compelling, absorbing read and I for one can’t wait for the next book in the series.