‘Dying Breath’ by Helen Phifer

The woman’s face was pale and waxy. Her milky, partially open eyes stared into the distance. There were drag marks in the grass; she’d been placed here and posed. Who did this to you and why have they left you like this?

When a woman’s body is found on a lonely patch of scrubland, Detective Lucy Harwin is called to the scene. The victim’s clothes have been wrenched to expose her, and her feet are bare.

Lucy and her team have only just started investigating who could have wanted local mother Melanie Benson dead, when a young woman is discovered strangled in a dark alley. As more bodies appear in the run-down seaside town, the small community is gripped by fear, and the pressure to solve the case becomes unbearable. But with each victim dying in a different way, Lucy struggles to find a link between the murders. Are these random killings, or part of the same plan?

Just as she thinks she’s getting close, Lucy starts to suspect the killer is watching her. Can she find the murderer before they strike again, or will she be next?


This is the second book by Helen Phifer that I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing and it is also the second book in the series featuring Detective Lucy Harwin.  I have to say that this is the best of the series so far.

There is one word I would use to describe this book and that is wowzers.  The story hit the ground running and the pace didn’t let up throughout the book.  The story is told from different periods of time.  The present day setting follows the murders and the subsequent investigation by the team led by Detective Harwin.  Frustratingly, there are few clues left at the murder scenes and the investigation is very slow at times.  There doesn’t appear to be any link between the victims so the team have to work extra hard to establish motive, means, opportunity and eventually apprehend the perpatrator.  Every so often there is a flashback to the recent history of a very damaged, young man, who is clearly a psychopath.  This helps to explain why he is the way he is.  The different times zones interlink really well and help to complete the story.  The author drip feeds information as to why the perpetrator does what he does but the reader is kept guessing as to who it is. I smugly thought that I had worked out who it was but I was so wrong and the murderer turned out to be someone I wasn’t expecting it to be.

I must say that I absolutely flipping well loved reading this book and for me it was a real CPID (can’t put it down) book.  Picking up this book was fatal in that once I started reading, I couldn’t stop and as a result the book came everywhere with me.  I just had to read on and see what drama was just around the corner.  The chapters ended on a sort of ‘duff duff’ (think about the end of EastEnders) moment and you just had to tune in for the next episode (or in this case the next chapter).  To say that it kept my interest is an understatement.  Usually I have the attention span of a gnat and I am easily distracted but not with this book.  Reading this book became seriously addictive and the pages were turning that fast that it was almost as if they were turning themselves.  Before I knew it I had finished the book, which I was so disappointed about.  I would liken reading this book to riding on an extremely twisty, turny rollercoaster ride with lots of stomach churning moments.  There were times when I almost had to read through my fingers as I genuinely feared what was going to happen.  The writing was so convincing that I really did feel as though I was an invisible member of the investigating team.

In short I loved reading this book and I would definitely recommend this series to anybody.  This author is certainly an author to watch and she has cemented her place on my favourite authors list.  I can’t wait to read what comes next from the very talented but ever so slightly twisted mind of Helen Phifer.  I award this book a smashing 5* out of 5* but I would award it more stars if I could because I really did enjoy reading the book that much.

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