Pan Books / 325 pages / 1st edition (1996)

ISBN: 0333669487

Sure, you may be knee-deep in review copies, but when a request comes in from a member of the Murder Squad, you get to work on it straight away, like yesterday. You want to cooperate with these ruthless writers — John Baker, Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Chaz Brenchley, Margaret Murphy, Cath Staincliffe, and Stuart Pawson — and you certainly don’t want to have to explain a late review.

(If the review turned out to be negative, I already had the paperwork filled out for the Federal Witness Relocation Program. The fact that you are reading this means I did not have to go to ground.)

Fortunately for me, Murphy knows her stuff, and she knows how to turn the crank on the suspense. This is dark realism that hits at a vulnerable spot in each of us. The terror to which lead character, Kate Pearson, is subjected is all too shockingly possible.

Remember, the worst you can imagine has already happened somewhere. The things you cannot even bear to imagine have already been perpetrated by someone you hope doesn’t exist. That is what makes dark realism so horrifying; no one fears giant grasshoppers after they grow up.

Goodnight, My Angel focuses on the agony of a murder survivor. Kate Pearson’s beloved daughter Melanie is gone forever — the victim of a brutal, unnerving murder. The case remains unsolved, causing Kate more pain. The murderer has decided, though, that Kate hasn’t begun to suffer. No, now Melanie’s murderer has found a way to bring her back from the grave.

If Kate felt responsible for the loss of her daughter before, it is nothing compared to the guilty thoughts the unknown killer is going to plant in her mind. But, Kate is not so willing to shoulder the blame anymore; now, she plans to strike back. Even if the struggle kills her.

Goodnight, My Angel has a cast of characters that brings the action all too vividly to life. Or death. And they are what really keeps you guessing as you inhale this début novel. If you are the kind of person who likes to try to guess the ending… Good luck. If you are the type who refuses to try to spoil the ending by guessing… Too bad. Murphy has put together a story that forces you to mentally accuse one character after another.

The police officers on the case are multi-faceted, as well. You may question their conclusions, but never their devotion and determination. CI Harmon; his wife, clinical psychologist Angie Harmon; and Sergeant Wainwright would be more than welcome in a return engagement. Their personalities and problems add yet another plate to an already well-stacked tale.

It’s not a light read; this is a difficult subject to look upon without flinching. So? Flinch and get on with it. Take a steady look at the other victims of homicide. Turn a cold eye on the humans who inflict such grief. And hope that Goodnight, My Angel makes you that much more aware of the dangers out there.