The Seventh Victim is an Audible Original crime novel.
Diane Marshall’s young son, Zachery, disappeared 25 years ago. Jonathan Egan Walsh was convicted of his and a number of other murders. Zachery is different from the others, because his body was never found. Then a letter from Egan Walsh makes Diane doubt that he did kill her son. She begins to investigate, and that brings her into contact with retired detective Caroline Turner, and investigative journalist Alex Frost, who has written a bestselling book about the case, based in part on interviews with Egan Walsh.
This is not an unfamiliar set-up. The suspicion that the wrong man has been convicted, the manipulative behaviour of an evil killer from inside prison, the detective haunted by the case, are all popular tropes of crime fiction. The book could easily have lapsed into cliché but it doesn’t, in large part because of its sensitive and distinctive portrayal of the characters.
Diane, Caroline and Alex have all, in different ways, experienced significant losses as a result of their contact with Egan Walsh. For Diane, this is obvious, for the others the reasons emerge gradually throughout the novel.
It soon becomes clear that there were a number of issues with the original investigation of Zachery’s disappearance. Caroline did not work on Zachery’s case, it was presented to her as a done deal by the investigating officer because of his similarity to the other victims of Egan Walsh. Diane, Caroline and Alex pursue a number of new leads but their interest in the case leads to threats and attacks on their property. Somebody wants them to stop.
What I like best about The Seventh Victim is that it is populated by realistic, well drawn, grown-up characters. Their world feels very vivid and real. I was very drawn into their world and found it hard to stop listening (it’s the aural equivalent of a page turner).
The portrayal of Diane was particularly moving. She is not a textbook heroine, and her grief has made her in many ways a difficult person. She has withdrawn from family life and this has had consequences for her wider family, not least her surviving son. There is an interesting counterpoint in Diane’s mother, who is more stoical but always remains loyal to her daughter, no matter how she behaves. Of course a grandmother’s grief is different from a mother’s, but she has also experienced significant losses in her life. The relationship is very subtly portrayed and moving.
I really like the depiction of out-of-season Skegness. I have a thing for down-at-heel seaside resorts (that’s why I live in one!) so enjoyed the setting. The narration was excellent. Joanne Froggatt (of Downton Abbey) effectively captured the different voices of the characters. The first-person narration of Egan Walsh’s journal is by Matthew Horne. It’s fine, but I wonder why they chose a southern voice for a character who has lived his whole life in the north (presumably for the cachet of having Gavin from Gavin and Stacy voicing it).
Although it’s an Audible Original, The Seventh Victim follows the format of a traditional novel rather than experimenting with the form, which makes me wonder if it might be published as a book later.
This is my first Michael Wood novel but I found it absorbing and engaging and look forward to reading or listening to more.
I received a copy of The Seventh Victim from Midas PR. Check out the other blogs on the tour: