Dead Gone by Luca Veste is a terrifying trip into the darkest corners of psychology, where Detectives Murphy and Rossi rush to catch a serial killer who is stalking a university in Liverpool, ingeniously murdering his victims in a series of deadly experiments (available January 10, 2017).
The debut novel from Luca Veste is a screamer—and not the kind of scream that is instantly audible, but one that starts very quietly and builds to a crescendo that eventually takes over every fiber of your being. Dead Gone grabs you from page one and compels you to stay until the very end, and it is that element of not being able to get away that draws you in and makes you at one with the victims—and there are many of them—in this very dark and skillful thriller.
David Murphy and Laura Rossi are two detectives who set out to find the killer, or killers, of a student who is enrolled at the City of Liverpool University. A letter outlining a notorious experiment from the past is pinned to her body. The experiment has been repeated on the young woman, her death being the inevitable outcome of the grisly attentions of what rapidly appears to be a case of serial killing.
Liverpool is not only the city that gave birth to The Beatles and boasts a magnificent cathedral, it also possesses a unique sense of self that manifests in a distinct humor. Mr. Veste utilizes this humor, which is both dark and surreal, to a very powerful effect. What is no laughing matter, however, is the fact that, as the body count grows, it soon becomes clear that each victim has connections to the University.
Murphy’s eyes stung as tiredness threatened to overwhelm him. The long night drifting into the early mist of a late winter morning.
The picture of the new victim, fresh in his mind, made him push forward and carry on.
So different to the first victim.
The thought of her grieving parents came back to Murphy, and he pushed it down. He couldn’t deal with what came with those thoughts. His mind was racing, the coffee he’d been downing at regular intervals taking effect.
It had been bitterly cold out there at the scene. Murphy was glad to be in the relative warmth of the of the major incident room at the station. It was quiet, the early morning change-over hadn’t kicked in yet. Rossi had been wearing the same smart trouser suit as the previous day and Murphy thought she’d probably ended up at her parents’ the previous night. They hadn’t worked together as much as others had, but he knew some of her habits.
He’d sent her home in the early hours to get some more sleep, but decided to stay on himself at the station waiting for a copy of the latest letter to arrive.
Murphy busied himself going through missing person reports, finding preliminary matches. He looked at the description Rossi had noted down of the woman again. The victim had been around twenty-five to thirty years old, five foot inches, dirty blonde hair, dressed in black bra and jeggings. Whatever jeggings were. He sent a text message to Jess, his usual contact for anything modern he didn’t understand.
“What in the name of fuck are Jeggings, Jess?”
The plot thickens like the fog that’s often found on a cold winter morning in Liverpool. It keeps you entranced every inch of the way, with each piece fitting into place—yet, something is not quite right. Just when Rossi and Murphy appear to have solved the mysteries of the deaths, a kink in the road appears, and we are off again in hot pursuit of the wrongdoers, dishing out pain and death to innocents along the twisted, dark, sinister, and—above all—gripping path that Dead Gone treads.
The relationship between Rossi and Murphy is an integral part of the movement and development of the story, and it is handled with delicacy and realism. It is not a relationship where each knows what the other is thinking, but a proper human one that builds upon layers that are always under threat by life’s generous servings of the unexpected.
Murphy looked at Rossi, who shrugged in response. “Okay, we’ll be there.”
“Good,” Dan replied, his eyes moving around the cemetery.
“It’s sad really. To think this is how it all ends.” He paused, looking for the words. “It’s so inevitable. All of us being drawn to here.”
Murphy followed Dan’s gaze across the headstones in the distance. Hundreds, thousands maybe, all lives now gone.
“We’ll see you there, Dan” Rossi said, snapping Murphy back to attention.
“You’re best getting back.”
“Of course. Thank you,” Dan said, nodding and turning away.
Murphy watched him walk back over to where everyone was standing. Something gnawed at the back of his mind as he looked at the faces in the small group of people. He’d been feeling it all week.
“What are we missing, Laura? There’s something there, some link we can’t see.”
They turned to walk away.
“I know. I’ve never experienced anything like this in an investigation.” Rossi replied, slowing her pace as two women walked by silently carrying a small bunch of tired looking flowers.
If you are on the move while reading this top-class thriller, be sure to look over your shoulder. If you are at home, in your seat, and ready to read, make sure you have locked the door. You won’t regret it.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.