Taboo – Casey Hill

Title – Taboo

Author – Casey Hill

Published – 2011

Genre – Crime fiction

Forensic investigator Reilly Steel, Quantico-trained and California-born and bred, imagined Dublin to be a far cry from bustling San Francisco, a sleepy backwater where she can lay past ghosts to rest and start anew. She’s arrived in Ireland to drag the Irish crime lab into the 21st century, plus keep tabs on her Irish-born father who’s increasingly seeking solace in the bottle after a past family tragedy. But a brutal serial killer soon puts paid to that. When a young man and woman are found dead in an apartment, the gunshot wounds on their naked bodies suggest a suicide pact. But Reilly’s instincts are screaming that something’s seriously amiss, and as more bodies are discovered, the team soon realises that a twisted murderer is at work, one who seeks to upset society’s norms in the most sickening way imaginable…

The action is set in Dublin where Forensic investigator Reilly Steel has recently moved from her native San Francisco to help bring the Garda Forensics Unit into the 21st century. While the head of the department is away Reilly takes the lead, working with the young members of the team. They’re called to a crime scene where a young couple have been found dead in bed in a wealthy area of Dublin with all the appearances of a suicide pact. However, Reilly soon suspects that all is not as it seems and works hard to identify what it is that’s causing her unease about the case. Hot on the heels of these deaths the team is called out again, a happily married man is found by his wife hanging from a beam in their house, an assumed suicide. The team soon uncover evidence that the two crimes may be connected and that there could be a serial killer on the loose. Then the body count starts to rise.

Dublin isn’t quite the idyllic place Reilly had imagined. She’s working long hours to establish herself in her new role and is still finding her feet in her new home. She has personal issues to deal with too. She has followed her hard-drinking father back from the US to his homeland and it’s obvious that there is a family secret which it binds them together, although they never mention it. An outsider, she also has to work hard to gain the respect of her new colleagues.

There is no denying that this is a cleverly plotted murder mystery as Reilly tries to second guess the serial killer and figure out their next move. There’s not a great deal of forensic detail in the story, but Reilly calls on an old colleague to help with profiling. There are some moments of tension as, inevitably, the investigator finds herself the target of the killer. I found the themes and staging of the murders were reminiscent the film “Seven”. There’s also a plotline which involves a mystery illness and one of the police officers investigating the cases alongside Reilly, seemingly her first real friend in Dublin. There’s the possibility that this relationship will develop into more of a love interest in future books.

Taboo is the first novel (and the second in the series is due out in 2012) by Casey Hill, the pseudonym for husband and wife writing duo Kevin and Melissa Hill. Melissa is already a successful author in her own right with a string of best-selling contemporary women’s fiction title to her name. For me this made the book seem as if it should be more akin to Nicci French (the writing duo of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) than authors such as Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell.

I was surprised that a duo writing a crime thriller didn’t have more of an edge to the story. The gory bits weren’t too gory and the tension wasn’t too tense. I think this is a book which is going to appeal to female readers a lot more than it will to male ones.

I found the book a little slow to begin with & the writing felt awkward, but once the action got underway it kept the pace going until the end. Things were wrapped up very quickly at the end and I felt there were one or two loose ends which were never explained.

It will be interesting to see how the character of Reilly Steel develops in the future.

Score – 3/5

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