SUMMARY – The 10-second review
Fairly average British crime novel set in the 1980s – Not a bad read but flawed in execution
Don’t You Want Me? is a thriller/police procedural set in London in 1981 about a deranged (is there any other sort?) serial killer and the small police team trying to identify and stop the killer. Overall, it didn’t leave me tapping my feet and wanting to sing along, despite the title referencing The Human League’s hit single that year.
I read a lot of independently published books and I think it’s a great way for new authors to get their works into the hands of the reading public. As a reader, you have to tolerate the lack of editing. And boy, does this book need editing. So be prepared: it’s littered with errors on every page and the story is not particularly well told. It’s a pretty flat narrative; this happened then this then that… A good developmental editor and line editor would make a world of difference.
With that said, and although this is a fairly standard novel in the genre with a fairly standard messed-up-serial-killer-on-the-loose, it does have some interesting and unusual story elements and plot twists. For example, a key character dies in the first pages, which creates an intriguing perspective as you read the rest of the book.
Minor spoiler alert. Click to show more or skip this!
The police investigation stretches credibility to the very limit. Yes, I imagine that — despite what you see on TV — police are generally reluctant to connect apparently unrelated deaths unless they have good reason to connect them. And indeed in this story the police are wary. However, and it’s a big however, the connection between the deaths is so blatant that it’s extremely difficult to see the police as other than blind fools. I think you’re supposed to appreciate the one police officer who is ‘unofficially’ connecting the deaths as a clever maverick, seeing things others are too blinkered to see. Instead they all appear stupid and blinkered. I may be making too much of this, but that reflects the fact that the book has too much emphasis on this thread of ‘Could they be connected? No of course not! But wait, I think they may be! Oh you agree! But what if we’re reading too much into it?’ Yada yada yada.
Still, there’s a lot to like in this novel. The main investigator, D.I. Anna Leeding, is an interesting character, as are her sidekicks Wallace and Fisher. And despite the editing issues, the book held my interest to the end (though I wasn’t on the edge of my seat) and kept me guessing about who the killer might be.
The story is set in 1981 and the parallels with life in 2020 are notable. No, there isn’t a global pandemic, but there are riots and unrest, and deep social division. Even some gender bending, which there was a fair bit of back then too. If you were actually around in 1981, it’s fun to be reminded of the day-to-day of what was in the news, what music people were listening to, what TV they were watching, and so on.
My thanks to the publisher, the author and Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.
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