Author – Mo Hayder
Published – 2013
Genre – Crime fiction
I seem to be a little late coming to Hayder’s books and I have to thank Transworld for the review copy and the introduction! I say that I’m late as Poppet is the 6th title in Hayder’s Jack Caffery series. I might have been put off starting so far into a series, but it wasn’t an issue. There is one small sub-plot which appears to carry on from a previous book, but for the main story I didn’t feel that I was missing out on any of the backstory, as it just wasn’t relevant. It is, though, a book that is hard to review without giving something of the plot away, but I will do my best!
AJ is the senior nursing officer at Beechway psychiatric unit, a high security unit housing mentally ill patients who have a whole host of problems – like “Monster Mother” who believes that she can take her skin off and become invisible. It’s an environment where the suggestion of something untoward can spread like wildfire and infects the residents and staff alike. The opening of the book is gripping – flickering lights and power cuts in the ward, a gruesome death, talk of ghosts This is really scary writing and not something to read on your own, in an empty house, at night!
In the cold light of day, though, AJ begins to worry that there is more to the incidents than overactive imaginations and after a chance meeting with DI Caffery he enlists his help in trying to investigate. AJ is a great central character – well-written, he’s likeable, someone you can really empathise with and you don’t want any harm to come to him (or his dog). He’s just starting a relationship with someone else in the Unit and reveals some of his insecurities in his tentative first steps in their early days together. Then the tension ramps up in AJ’s home life too as he suspects that he is being watched.
There is a third thread to the story when a patient, Isaac Handel, who originates from near AJ’s home, is released from the Unit. It’s only after the release that AJ finds out the horror of the crimes Handel committed -something AJ had tried to avoid when patients were in his care.
This is a truly frightening read, it’s a gripping tale and involves believable characters in a tense situation. There is a but coming, and that is over the ending. It was one of those books that was SO good as I was reading it that I wondered how the ending could meet my expectations and in truth, for me, it didn’t. I must confess that I was underwhelmed by the final resolution.