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Hunt

HUNT . . . Between the covers

hunt feature

Leona Deakin started her career as a psychologist with the West Yorkshire Police. She is now an occupational psychologist, so you can rest assured that her career has given her a valuable insight into how a fictional criminal psychologist would go about their work. Such knowledge, however, is worthless if the author can’t write. In Deakin’s hands the result is that we have a totally convincing character (Dr Augusta Bloom), an intricate plot with whiplash-inducing twists and turns, and a book that you just don’t want to end.

Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 19.35.58Screen Shot 2021-09-27 at 19.36.16Hunt is the third episode in Augusta Bloom’s career, and you can read my reviews of the previous two stories by clicking the images. Bloom has an uneasy relationship with Marcus Jameson (a former military intelligence analyst), notionally her partner in their investigation agency. Rather than Ying and Yang, they are more chalk and cheese. The book begins with Bloom being summoned south from her Yorkshire Dales hideaway. Who demands her services? None other than the Foreign Secretary Gerald Porter. Where is he? In a London police cell, detained on suspicion of selling information to Britain’s enemies. But why does he need Dr Augusta Bloom?

Hunt coverThe answer to that conundrum forms the central premise of the book. Porter’s niece Scarlett has been drawn into the orbit of a feminist organisation called Artemis led by a charismatic woman called Paula Kunis. Porter will only answer police questions about his activities if Bloom undertakes to track down Scarlett and extract her from the clutches of Artemis. Bloom is smart enough to realise that Porter is up to something, but cannot work out why he is so worried about his niece, when every other aspect of his behaviour suggests that he is a cold and devious man, with psychopathological elements to his character.

On-line investigations by Bloom and Jameson get them only so far, and so Bloom decides to go to a seminar run by Artemis, to see what manner of creature it is. The women running the presentation are warm, friendly and convincing, but give little away, as Bloom tries to question them as subtly as possible. Having hardly scratched the surface of the veneer, Bloom signs up for a weekend retreat at the Artemis headquarters in an isolated village in the Scottish highlands. Jameson is dubious about this as he has a sixth sense that Artemis is not the benevolent campaigner for women’s rights that its glossy literature and media presence claim it to be. Bloom reassures him. After all, this the 21st century, the age of mobile phones and instant connectivity. What can possibly go wrong over a long weekend?

Bloom and a minibus full of other attendees arrive at the location, and are met by a flock of charming and smiling women who seem overjoyed to welcome potential recruits to the cause. It is all very fragrant, but a tiny alarm begins to ring in Bloom’s head as she sees all mobile phones and watches being handed over to the Artemis greeters. This tinkling bell becomes more clamorous when Bloom realises that the new arrivals are being subjected to sleep deprivation, time disorientation and one-to-one social monitoring by the Artemis devotees.

Back in the outside world, three things have happened. Firstly, Jameson has discovered that the Scottish retreat is entirely surrounded by high fences topped with barbed wire facing inwards, all the better to keep people in rather than to keep intruders out. Secondly – and much more worrying – is the appearance on the scene of Seraphine Walker, a sinister and clever criminal fixer, rather like a 21st LDcentury Professor Moriarty, who has crossed swords with Bloom and Jameson before. Thirdly, Gerald Porter has inexplicably disappeared from police custody and, almost immediately, a huge social media campaign vilifying Paula Kunis and Artemis has been launched, with the result that scores of husbands and fathers of women “poached” by Artemis have headed to the Scottish retreat and are angrily congregating at its gates.

Leona Deakin (right) has written an absolute cracker of a thriller, and her portrayal of how cults go about their business preying on innocent and needy people is chilling. The conclusion of Hunt is dramatic, violent and utterly gripping.

Hunt is out now, published by Black Swan/Penguin, and you can investigate buying choices by clicking the images below. Or, visit your local bookshop if you are lucky enough to have one.

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ON MY SHELF . . . Late September 2021

OMS HEADER

Where should I be in late September? Back at school, obviously! I can’t ‘steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool’, so I will have to tackle a shelf groaning under the weight of new books. Anyone baffled by the references in the previous couple of sentences should, perhaps, do some research into songs written by Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton, but in your own time,obviously. Alphabetically heading up the book pile is Without Let or Hindrance by Geoffrey Charin.

WITHOUT LET

HUNT

BLINK

BLIND EYE

APPARITION

SAFE

NEIGHBOURS

DEADLY

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Deakin & Kurian

The only remote downside to me for having received these two beauties in today’s post, is that they are both marked September 2021. I have always thought September to be the saddest month, for a variety of reasons: the dying of the summer light, the wretched return to the classroom ( I was a teacher for forty years) where I would cast artificial pearls before real swine, the looming end of the cricket season, and the girding up of loins to face yet another winter. By the time September comes I will have exceed my biblical span by four years, and I will be thinking of that beautifully sad poem by JRR Tolkein, where Bilbo says:

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see.”

Enough of such morbid musings. There are books to look at! Leona Deakin’s character Dr Augusta Bloom first appeared in Gone (December 2019) – click to read the review – and then in Lost (October 2020). Now, Dr Bloom returns with another case, this time involving politics and counter terrorism. No less a figure than the Foreign Secretary is being held by the police on suspicion of terror offences. He will only talk if he is allowed to speak to Augusta Bloom. This results in Augusta having to put herself in the line of fire as a decoy. Does she have the skills to operate undercover? The Kindle is available now, but you will have to hang on until the summer fades to get the paperback. It will be published by Black Swan, which is a Penguin imprint, and will be on sale from 16th September

Vera Kurian’s book, according to the publicity, couldn’t be more different and, if I can be permitted to invent a triple-barreled genre, sounds as if it’s domestic-psycho-noir. Kurian, who is based in Washington DC, has penned a tale of a first year university student named Chloe. The blurb is very effective:

Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door and diagnosed psychopath with an !Q of 135. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.

Quite what Will Bachman has done to incur Chloe’s wrath is not clear; neither is it down to me to say whether or not he survives her attentions. She says, however:

“I’ve never met someone like me, but when I do, eventually, I think it will be like two wolves meeting in the night, sniffing and recognising another hunter,”

Never Saw Me Coming will be published by Harvill Secker on 9th September.

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