Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Imprisoned in a disused diving pool a girl shoots her lover and escapes to tell such a devastating story to the police that, far from being charged with murder, she walks free and unscathed physically but with a mind destroyed by remorse.
Before elucidation, before any starting point can be found for an investigation, two business men are reported missing, their car found abandoned in the New Forest. More of the same or similar follows, always two people together because that is essential to the unfolding plot. By way of insertions the plight and torment of the abducted couples is elaborated in excruciating detail. They have no food or water but they have a gun with one bullet and a mobile phone with one message: if one victim kills the other the survivor will be freed.
Despite the planning that must have gone into such diabolical dilemmas the telling is unsophisticated and crudely effective – like the cop who leads the hunt for the perpetrator. Detective Inspector Helen Grace is a six-foot bully; she rides a Kawasaki, seduces her alcoholic sergeant, is into extreme sado-masochism and sports a guilt threshold at zero: the ultimate anti-hero. Obviously she has a past but that’s to her advantage, incest and paedophilia being the link between hunter and hunted. She knows how such a damaged psyche works.
Eeny Meeny is dependent on titillation, which might work against an exotic background – Port Moresby say, or Timbuktu – but employing so many varied perversions in Southampton smells of contrivance. Short chapters come as a relief. Or teasers depending on preference.