Review: Path of Needles / Author: Alison Littlewood / Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books / Release Date: Out Now
When the body of a young girl is discovered in the woods, the strange way that the corpse has been arranged reminds PC Cate Corbin of a fairytale. On a hunch she contacts Alice Hyland, a lecturer in folk tales at the local university, to see if she can shed any light on her suspicions. Then another body turns up, laid out in a similar manner, and it becomes clear that a serial killer is at work in the small town. As suspicions begin to fall on Alice, Cate is forced to make decisions that could not only impact her career, but may put the lives of both women at risk.
Path of Needles is, at its heart, a police procedural thriller, and it’s a very good one. After a fairly slow start, the tension builds nicely and the plot has plenty of twists that keep the reader guessing as to who the identity of the killer is, right up to the end. However, added to the standard police-hunting-a-murderer plot are a number of fantasy elements, such as a bluebird that seems to foreshadow the murders and has some kind of link with Alice, drawing her deeper into a world that may or may not exist largely in her own mind.
Littlewood's writing is exquisite. The characters are fully fleshed out, flawed and interesting. Alice in particular is a fascinating character, whose personality undergoes some subtle changes during the course of the novel that leave the reader wondering whether she really is an innocent bystander in these murders, or if she perhaps has a darker side. Similarly the locations are described in just enough detail to provide a vivid picture to the reader, without overdoing things and slowing down the plot. The murders themselves are at times quite vicious and gruesome, while the fantasy elements provide a level of intrigue that elevates Path of Needles far above your standard serial killer fare.
Path of Needles is a truly gripping novel, that keeps the reader guessing right up to the final pages. It’s a must read for fans of police procedural novels, or anyone that wants to read an intelligent, fast-paced and satisfying thriller.