Abby Mullen, hostage negotiator and single mother of two, has rebuilt her life after a childhood spent in the grip of a cult. But when one of her fellow survivors calls to ask for help, that past is brought right back to the present – accompanied by one man’s dangerous obsession.
I enjoyed the Zoe Bentley series, but A Deadly Influence shows what Mike Omer is really capable of. His books are always impeccably researched, and this is no exception – whether it’s stalkers, cults, or violins and grass snakes, the details are absolutely spot on. It makes for characters who feel real, who have idiosyncrasies and lives that exist outside their place in the narrative. Abby Mullen is a single mother who relies on help from her family, but her children are people in their own right; frequently in procedurals the family exists to serve simply as set dressing, perhaps to be bumped up to potential victims if the drama needs a nudge. Instead, here, they build a family that supports and surrounds the main character with love – and irritation, but that just makes them more believable.
It’s not just the characters who have been expertly realized, though – this is a procedural, and without a compelling mystery, there wouldn’t be much of a book. I can happily report that the mystery here is excellent – plenty of twists, a good deal of intrigue, and a play between obsession and the secretive world of cults that kept me well aware of the high stakes throughout. The foundation of an excellent cast makes the reader truly care about the outcome – and the unpredictability of the suspects means you can never be sure what will happen next.
A Deadly Influence is an exciting start to a new series from this author, one that I’m sure will delight previous fans and attract plenty of new ones.
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