The Echo Man
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Sam Holland’s debut thriller grabs the reader by the throat from the outset and doesn’t let go. The novel opens with a man in a forest staging a horrific murder scene. He is arranging two bodies in a car boot in a very specific tableau for the police to find.
Further murders follow in quick succession with different methods of killing. At first the police are baffled at so many murders are suddenly occurring on their patch. All meticulously carried out with no forensic traces left at the scene. DCI Cara Elliott, her partner DS Noah Deakin and their team are soon overstretched investigating so many murder scenes all at once. Eventually they realise they are dealing with a single serial killer, one who is paying homage to other infamous serial killers causing the press to label him the ‘Echo Man’.
As well as trying to juggle her burgeoning caseload with her family life, Cara is also worried about her brother Nate. A year ago he was badly injured during a home incursion in which his wife Mia was raped, tortured and killed. Also a police officer he is not coping well with his injuries or his guilt in failing to protect Mia and is currently on suspension for punching another officer. After a suspicious house fire in which a man died while his wife Jessica and daughter Alice barely escaped, Nate believes he had found evidence that linked the fire to Mia’s death. When the police accuse Jessica of starting the fire, Nate is the only one who believes she is innocent and she turns to him for his help in finding the killer.
This dark and chilling novel is perfect for those who love thrillers featuring serial killers. It is definitely not for the squeamish, as the killer is relentless in copying well known murder scenes making for some very graphic and gruesome depictions of macabre murders. At times it almost felt like overload, with a total of twenty-eight murders over the course of the novel and just about every way of killing or mutilating a body featured.
The action is well paced and packed with suspense. Despite all the violence, we do come to care for the characters, even though many of them are troubled or in flawed relationships. Damaged Nate hasn’t yet got over his anger at Mia’s death and is self-medicating his physical and mental pain with opiates. Jessica self-harms and has trouble forgiving herself for not having saved her husband and Cara, dealing with murders coming thick and fast is struggling to spend enough time at home with her kids and her husband who may be having an affair. Interspersed between chapters are reports from decades earlier about a disturbed child, which give some insight into why the ‘Echo Man’ became who he is. For me, there were a few suspects as to the identity of the killer who is not revealed until late in the book. A huge twist at the end of the novel, perhaps stretching plausibility too far, does leave the reader wondering if there is to be a sequel, although it’s hard to imagine how Ms Holland could top this impressive debut.
With thanks to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for a copy to read. Publication expected April 5.