Sunday, 13 March 2016

Little Boy Blue by M.J. Arlidge (DI Helen Grace, #5) - Book Review

5/5 Stars

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is no stranger to tragedy.

But when a body is found in a Southampton nightclub,

the death cuts too close to the bone...

Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 377
Chapters: 129
Publisher: Michael Joseph

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Facebook


M.J. Arlidge has outdone himself with Little Boy Blue, the fifth entry to his DI Helen Grace series. I am completely and utterly gobsmacked by how phenomenal this novel is. It's one of the best crime novels I've ever read, truly. The style, structure and story; the characters, their chemistry and their competitive camaraderie; the writing, world and wit; Mr Arlidge is fast establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.

Little Boy Blue is personal and hauntingly poetic; a culmination of events that are natural but catch us off guard anyway. While competent in giving first-time readers the basics as to understand what's happening, I recommend reading the fantastic previous instalments for a fuller and more complex understanding.

Wow, just wow...

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

DI Helen Grace is fierce, unrelenting and an officer with more serial killers under her belt than she'd obviously like.
So when a close friend of hers is murdered, and the signs of a new depraved individual pile up, Helen will face her toughest challenge yet.
She has secrets, dark and private escapades that are better left out of the reach of prying hands, but her new dead friend risks it all.
Forced to lie to protect herself, Helen hunts for a hunter whose motives are a mystery.
But as the bodies drop and the plot thickens, Helen might lose everything she cares about.
Including her freedom...

Plot - 5/5 Stars

Where to start... For one thing, persevere. Little Boy Blue is a steady, standard build to a complete opposite climax. The chills are for real. It's a little cluttered at the beginning as you get used to the short, sharp chapters, but it's vicious and gruesome. It's a beginning with a very personal note to it, one that sets the stage for the entire novel, and if you're an avid fan, it'll knock you some too.

The emotional effect on the reader is strong, drawing you in and ensuring that you're as much a part of the story as the characters are. The structure works wonders as we fall into the same naivety our protagonist does. All the pointers are there, but we can't quite believe it until it's too late. 

Aside from the murder case and the ramifications it has, Helen has the world salivating to consume her. The sheer amount of betrayal and focus on bringing down such a strong force of good is riveting to the point of almost tearing the book in half with how hard you grapple it. Helen's past is back, and it opens a new future for the character and the plot.

Arlidge does something I haven't experienced in a long time: As soon as the protagonist figures it out, and without being expressly told, the reader does as well. And I mean in the same sentence; it's like a lightning bolt of pure adrenaline and shock.

Give me more!

And then we reach the conclusion that blows many conclusions out of the water. It's a heartbreaking and haunting ending that inspires rage and the need for righteous retribution. It's a cliffhanger that has me floored and immobile.

And we have to wait until this coming September to find out what happens next...

Damn you, Mr Arlidge!

Pace - 5/5 Stars

Glorious, my friends, just glorious. The short chapters are similar to fellow crime writer James Patterson's style: They keep the flow moving firmly forward while also leaving the reader breathless with scene jumps during intense events. The fact that this entry is probably the best in the series only helps matters as you race to unravel the web of lies and betrayal.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

Little Boy Blue uses its cast, and then some. It's brimming with conflict and chaos, development and distress. Each character is built and built and utterly hooking. Helen Grace, protagonist extraordinaire, leads the charge the way any main character should. She's fierce, intelligent and complex. She faces battles on both personal and professional fronts with few allies to back her up. With a past that beggars belief, she is, quite simply, one of the best female leads in the crime genre.

We also have the lovely Charlie, ambitious but loyal; Sanderson, the rival to Charlie and a member of the team who is wholly ambiguous; Gardam, Helen's superior, who features chillingly in the last chapters of this novel's predecessor, Liar Liar, and his story continues for those in the know; and we have the return of Emilia, dogged reporter whose morality no longer exists.

The more I type, the more I need more...

Writing - 5/5 Stars

To be able to structure and build to that reveal and finale, you have to be a master.


Overall - 5/5 Stars

I really, really just want to spill all the juicy details and revel in their ice-cold intensity, but I've been trying more and more lately to write spoiler-free reviews that are concise and clear enough to pique your interest.

I hope I have, I really do. Especially since revealing this novel's inner secrets would do it a disservice; it has to be experienced, and I recommend doing that from book one.

Previous Instalment: Liar Liar
Next Instalment: Hide and Seek

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