Oh my lord. I have to say that I have been taken on a journey reading Black Heart by Anna-Lou Weatherley. I love serial killer fiction, even more so when the killer is a woman, and even more again when we get to see her perspective. Black Heart ticks all of those boxes for me; it’s exactly the kind of novel I would write, and tried to in NaNo! I saw the term ‘grip lit’ used recently and it is the perfect way to describe this novel.
Black Heart will be published on 31 January 2018 by Bookouture.
Told from a third-person perspective of the killer’s view, and a first-person perspective of the detective assigned to her case, Black Heart tells the tale of a woman who wants to tell a story through murder. Detective Riley is called in when a suspected suicide is discovered in a hotel. It quickly becomes clear that it is a homicide, and a witch hunt ensues for his suspected female killer. Along the way, the reader learns about Riley’s troubled past, his deceased girlfriend Rachel and watch him try to rebuild himself whilst solving the case. The reader also sees our killer as she goes through her daily life, how she chooses her victims, befriends them and makes them trust her. Weatherley dives into the mind of a psychopath and explores intuition, how people really respond to certain things, and why we can never truly trust our own judgement.
DI Riley was one of my favourite characters; he is painted real and raw. Because of his past, there is another layer to him, and the continuous mentions of Rachel show the reader just how vulnerable he is. Even toward the end, the reader is still faced with the realness of his thoughts and feelings towards people, so they can choose how to judge him. I felt that the killer was very well-characterised. She is everything that you would want in a female serial killer because you can actually relate to the way she feels toward other humans; potentially not extreme enough to murder anyone, but you can certainly see where her rage comes from.
The other characters remain less developed, but I liked the use of Janet Baxter, who I believe reflects a lot of women in society. I would have liked to have seen more to the people connected to the other victims; Karen’s ex-husband’s response and George’s mother’s reactions. Aside from this, I enjoyed the Delaney and Davis. I felt as though there could have been more reference to Touchy later on, as she offered a female character to contrast with the killer.
I liked the use of place names and locations; if the reader has lived/live in London, they will know where they are which invokes the story with an eery sense of being involved somehow. Although the buildings are made up, the reader can feel as though they are in the police station, or in the sushi restaurant because of the use of settings throughout the novel.
This psychological crime novel is not too gory; there are two main descriptions which may make your skin crawl, but Weatherley does not appear to be reaching for gruesome horror. Instead, she draws on how those sights and smells might make one feel. Through the eyes of DI Riley, the reader can experience these deaths as a humane person, whilst the killer’s natural disposition makes it difficult to connect with the victims.
I did love her tone of voice, and the way she can truly manipulate people. I am also sure that she could have completed her story, but chose a simpler way instead because she did not want the rest of her life taken from her. Learning about the killer makes a reader empathise with her character, yet you need to remember that things are not as simple as they seem.
The only disappointment for me was the ending, which I will not spoil. I thought that she could have had a much more fitting ending for the life she has throughout the story. Unfortunately, everybody plays into her hands and she gets her way, although not how you might think.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good thriller or crime read, especially if you’re bored of some of the standard conventions of these genres. I was provided with an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.