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Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge (Helen Grace #1)

Eeny Meeny is the debut novel of the British author M.J. Arlidge. Penguin publisher sent me a copy through Netgalley along with a review request, and as I usually love everything this publishing house puts together, I eagerly picked it up.

In a nutshell, the story is about a serial killer who plays the eeny meeny moo game with deadly consequences.

He (or she) abducts pairs of people, seemingly in a random fashion, keeps them in a secluded and well-isolated room and leaves them starving, with no food or water, but a gun and an SMS on a throwaway mobile (cell) phone: whoever kills the other, gets to go live. (This is not a spoiler, btw, this much is mentioned in the book blurb as well.)

DI Helen Grace is a cold, hard working and enigmatic woman, whom everyone fears and respects at the Southampton police station. She has the task of figuring out just what is going on, and stop the serial killer as fast as possible.

She soon realizes that the pairs of people drugged and abducted have some kinds of ties to her…she is not clear about it all yet, but there is something nagging at the back of her mind…

As the book progresses we learn more about Helen, and we soon figure out that she is dealing with some serious demons of her own. However it is only at the very end of the book, when all is revealed, that we learn just what makes her tick, why is she as cryptic as she is, and what have the abductions to do with her in the first place.

While reading the book, I kept thinking about Peter James’ series about Roy Grace. I even had a chuckle when it dawned on me that Helen is also a ‘Grace’. The books in both series are dark, deal with serious sociopaths, the crimes are terrible, and both main characters have their own demons to battle.

Peter James is an established author and I love his series. I can easily imagine M.J. Arlidge following this path if the next books in the series are equally engaging and the writing style builds upon the previous.

M.J. Arlidge writes in an engaging way, and even though the book is what someone called ‘passive serial killer novel’, the suspense and chill were there all the time. British crime mysteries are a bit different from the American ones, they move at a slower pace, and character development is often better done, so I did expect this in the book.

Although speaking of character development, I was just a tad disappointed regarding Helen – the author hardly spent time with her past and backstory, until the very end when all was revealed in one swoop. I would have loved to learn more about her earlier on. Throughout the book, I felt I knew the killer better than Helen because their point of view was presented in every other chapter.

Overall Eeny Meeny is a great first book in a series that caught my interest. I’ve noticed that there are already 2 additional books in the thriller series, with another one to be published this year, so Helen Grace is a series I am looking forward to continuing very soon!

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