Scarecrow by Matthew Pritchard

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‘You’ve displeased me. You things always do. Now it’s time for us to part.’ He watched, expressionless, as the thing raised a feeble arm; then he released a handle on the winch. The thing slumped, disappeared into the foot wide gap between the walls. 

He turned to the pile of loose bricks, looking for his trowel… – from Scarecrow

Books by new authors that have a load of rave reviews on Amazon or crime fiction blogs stir mixed emotions in me. Will it be as good as everybody is saying it is? Can it live up to the hype? Can a new author hit the ground running and provide me with the complicated but exciting twists and turns that I look for in a crime novel? Do I want to risk my time and energy on a book that might be rubbish but then again might make me a fan of yet another author (I’m a fan of lots, authors whose books I need to read on the day they come out.) Will it be a part of yet another series of crime novels that I will have to sign up to read – I have so many of those already and yes I need to read them all and in order too.

Anyway I picked up my Kindle to read Scarecrow by Matthew Pritchard and it justified all the praise that has been heaped upon it recently. There was a time where I judged all serial killer books by the works of Thomas Harris and his Hannibal Lector books (well okay two of them) but in recent years that has changed and for me Harris’ books aren’t quite the litmus test for what makes a good yarn about sociopaths. I recently re-read Red Dragon and maybe it’s a case of familiarity breeds not necessarily contempt but a realisation the I’ve possibly had rose tinted glasses on when it comes to that book. Don’t get me wrong, Red Dragon is still a great read but I’ve read a lot of books over the years that more than match what Harris did in Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs and this is a good thing a really good thing for fans of crime fiction. 

The Scarecrow features the work of a serial killer who journalist Danny Sanchez comes to realise may or may not be safely locked up in secure facility back in the UK. Danny comes to this conclusion when following the demolition of a holiday home in Spain a body is discovered that condition of which bears striking similarities to the bodies found in The Scarecrow killings that were the basis of Danny’s first big story as a cub reporter on a local newspaper  back in the 90s. Is there a copycat at large, is the wrong person locked up back in England? 

The story takes us from Spain back to England where Danny and other reporters and people from his past find evidence that points then one way and then the other. Pritchard doesn’t resort to too many red herrings and neither are there leaps of bafflingly unexplained or too good to be true levels of detective work to move the story along. Layers of the story are laid in early sections of the book and when the book reaches the sections where these layers are unpeeled I became excited, uncomfortable and just had to read on to see what would happen, when the misdirection in certain sections becomes apparent it either came as a surprise or the detective in me felt smug at having worked things out.

The Scarecrow is a believable book with warm, likeable characters and who I’d like to read more about but there are also horrible damaged and nasty people in it too some of who have no redeeming characteristics at all but at no point do they become caricatures or resort to stereotypes that have been seen time and time before. The Scarecrow thunders along at a swift pace – I had to finish it, I needed to know what the truth behind the killings was and I really want to read more by Matthew Pritchard.

The Scarecrow kept me guessing, made me uncomfortable, had me groaning with frustration at the lead character and sweating as I worked out what was going on and had to keep on reading as the book reached its conclusion. I read a lot of crime fiction and am really fussy about what I read – I can’t recommend The Scarecrow highly enough.    

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