The Lucky Ones

Written by Mark Edwards

Review written by Judith Sullivan

Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.

The Lucky Ones
Thomas & Mercer
RRP: £8.99
Released: June 15 2017

Even without peeking inside Mark Edwards’ latest and most cunning offering - readers will guess that ‘lucky’ here is a relative term; perhaps even ironic.

The killer who drives the plot of this page-turner has a warped definition of luck and how it affects people. The so-called Shropshire Viper’s Modus Operandi [MO] is a brutal spin on the genie in the bottle conceit. This Viper’s unsuspecting future victims find themselves on the receiving end of strokes of good fortune such as a pregnancy, a financial windfall or a new job. The pots of gold in some cases contain goodies secured at another’s expense – the removal of a love rival, the arrival of a transplantable organ; that kind of thing.

The windfalls are varied and pleasant – but the recipients’ time to enjoy them is limited. 

Front and centre of the plot is civilian Ben Holland, a hapless copywriter struggling with the break-up of his marriage and attempts at rebuilding a career abandoned in London; and then comes problem number three arrives - his son Ollie who is grappling with excess weight is being bullied at his new school.

Then we read with mounting worry that little things start to ‘get the better’ of Holland. The reader realizes what he does not - that the upward curve will very swiftly start looping south if he and/or the Police led by Detective Imogen Evans don’t quickly identify the man or woman [or people] behind the Viper’s acts.

Edwards is deft at shifting points of view from that of Holland and his teenage son to the police officers hunting down the Viper. All these characters are three-dimensional; Evans, for example, is likable and smart on the job, a plain speaker and a decisive copper. At home Imogen’s a different person, displaying OCD tendencies and control freakishness that she conceals well from her colleagues.

When the killer starts to ‘tick her off’ - big time, we can feel her annoyance and impatience. Not surprising, by the time the cops close in on the killer, the beautiful Shropshire landscape has been dotted with a good half-dozen cadavers.

The contrasts include the scenic and cozy Shropshire location which is a character in its own right in this ‘far-from-cozy’ narrative. Several of the characters (including Holland) wryly comment on the horror of the killings being at odds with the gorgeous setting. Edwards doesn’t overdo the irony or the amusing in-jokes for readers of Christie, Sayers and other Golden-Age novelists.  

The Viper is identified and captured and most of the plot lines wrapped up in a clean [but not in a pat fashion]. The cliff-hanger is a possible romance between Evans and Holland which hums along nicely. Holland grows and shifts enough over the course of “Lucky” for readers to perhaps welcome him for a second outing. Evans throughout is a damaged and interesting character and I hope she’ll be back.

Edwards adeptly handles the overlapping points of view, in addition to the Nick and Nora Charles of Shropshire - we also hear direct from the killer and from chunky teenager Ollie Holland, among others. The author also lands some well-placed digs at such modern-day irritants as noise pollution, bottom-feeding reality television and yapping dogs.

All in all, this is a solid entrant into the psycho killer canon. It won’t hit the heights of Silence of the Lambs [which is wittily referenced in The Lucky Ones].

While the Shropshire tourist board might not feature the book in its promotional pamphlets; Edwards makes excellent use of the setting from the Priory in Wenlock to the Boreatton Park in Shrewsbury.

I look forward to discovering if the Evans/Holland romance has legs, and working my way through Edwards’ next multi-layered mystery novel. 

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