Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.
This is the latest in the popular series of Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus thrillers set in Mobile, Alabama in America’s Deep South where a woman’s body has been found, tied to a chair staring at a city dump. A Jane Doe, she is eyeless, hairless and badly beaten, a visceral and gruesome death. It‘s obvious that the killer has a real hatred of women and destroys their femininity before destroying them over a period of days. But no-one has reported her as missing and she becomes known as the Butterfly Lady due to a small but distinctive tattoo.
Meanwhile we are introduced to Treeka, a battered wife who summons up the courage to leave her partner and walk into the local Women’s Centre to ask for their help in her escape to a better life. One of their volunteers, Liza, works at the local university and an academic manager, for whom she works, Dr Thalius Sinclair, logs onto misogynist chat rooms at home and releases his frustrations at being surrounded by so many women with voices. He finds friends online who use disturbing phrases such as FemiNazis and X Chromes to describe women. Liza has formed a friendship with a colleague, Rob Trotman and they snigger at Sinclair’s apparent unease around the assertive University women.
Then, two more bodies which have been murdered in the same horrific manner are found; one floating in a sewage facility and the other in an outdoor latrine. Carson and Nautilus manage to identify one, an abused wife who escaped. She found an underground network of women’s centres and volunteers but unfortunately so did someone else. Someone who has managed to break into it and abduct two of the escapees. The trail leads to abusive husbands and crooked lawyers and Carson and Harry need someone who’s prepared to break in and expose the killer. Unfortunately the cop that volunteers is a rookie, Reinetta or Rein, who happens to be Harry’s niece and, despite his anger, goes ahead and joins the network. The stage is set for a scary ride across America fro both Rein and Harry.
I thought that the book was very well-researched and dealt with its controversial subjects of abused women trying to escape their partners and misogyny with sensitivity. I really felt the women’s desperation to escape and the courage of the network’s volunteers is helping them. I could believe in the misogyny chatrooms only too well.
However, this wasn’t a good introduction to Harry Nautilus as he spends a lot of the book fretting about Rein and getting in the way of the investigation which seemed very unprofessional and also dangerous for Rein. Someone should have put him straight from the beginning.
But the revelation of the killer’s identity was a real letdown as I’d guessed it halfway through and I was unconvinced by his motives. There was also a ‘Norman Bates moment’ which I felt could have been dispensed with as I didn’t believe it.
However, despite these quibbles, I found Her Last Scream to be a really riveting read and kept me turning pages as the plot was so convincing and credible with lots of twists and turns. This was my first encounter with Carson and Harry but it won’t be my last.