Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Jigsaw Man

The Jigsaw Man
  The Jigsaw Man
Author:  Nadine Matheson
Publication Information:  Hanover Square Press. 2021. 496 pages.
ISBN:  1335146563 / 978-1335146564

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "6:44 am. Greenwich Pier, low tide and Maxwell Thomas is walking his dog on the riverbank."

Favorite Quote:  "I always find it odd when people say that of the dead. They had their whole life ahead of them. Clearly, they didn't because they're dead. We may not like the method of disposal but when it's your time to go, then it's your time to go."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Bodies are being discovered around South-east London. Rather, body parts are being discovered around South-east London. A leg here, a torso there, a head with eyes gouged out, another with ears cut off. It is gruesome but all part of the job for Inspector Anjelica Henley. She is returning to her job with the Serial Crimes Unit after a leave. The leave was necessary due to the fact that she once became a victim in a crime she was investigating.

She captured Peter Oliver, a serial killer who arranged the body parts of his victims like jigsaw puzzles. He is behind bars, but it appears that the new set of discoveries mimics his modus operandi. Is it a copycat killer, or is there more of a connection to both Peter Oliver and to Inspector Henley?

First and foremost, I must suspend disbelief for this book. Serial killers and gruesome crimes are sadly very real. That is not the disbelief part. The disbelief comes from the fact that Inspector Henley is involved in the investigation and then remains involved even as more and more connections to her investigation of Peter Oliver are discovered. That seems counter to what I believe police procedure would dictate. Inspector Henley was a victim of Peter Oliver. She was grievously injured. She still bears the emotional scars. Events in the book pull her directly in the path of the copycat killer. Personal relationships within the police department may further hinder her objectivity. Yet, she continues as lead investigator.

I put that disbelief aside and go along on the adventure of this book. I realize that more than the actual identity of the copycat serial killer, this book becomes about the psychological and personal journey of the inspector and about the almost competitive relationship between her and the original jigsaw killer. Inspector Henley's story becomes about a marriage, the pressures of an intense career, motherhood, post-traumatic stress, an extramarital relationship, and race. It is also about the psychological manipulations of a serial killer and his obsession with the inspector.

In other words, there is a lot going on in this book. At the beginning, it takes a while to settle in as it seems there are a lot of characters and a lot of pieces to this story. The pace is quick and seems even quicker with short chapters. However, the characters settle and develop into their roles, and the realization hits that this is more psychological drama than police procedural. The story clicks, with each detail of the crimes more gruesome than the last.

These facets keep me turning the pages until the very gruesome and yet unfinished ending. Based on the ending and the author's interview below, it is clear that more of Inspector Henley's story is to come. It will be interesting to see if the same themes and same characters carry through the series. Given that this is a debut novel, I look forward to seeing what the author's style develops into.

About the Author

Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.

About the Book

In THE JIGSAW MAN (March 16, 2021; Hanover Square Press), Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has a lot to deal with on her first day back her from leave from the Serial Crimes Unit of Scotland Yard. After nearly becoming a victim of the vicious serial killer, The Jigsaw Man, just before he was put behind bars, she also has to contend with the subtle digs and microaggressions that come with being the unit’s only black female detective. Add a new trainee and a rocky marriage to the mix, and DI Henley nearly has a full plate. Until the first call comes in...

Along the Thames, a fan of the Jigsaw Man and copycat killer has scattered two dismembered bodies along the shores like a jigsaw puzzle. When DI Henley sees one of the victims, a young black woman, is already being written off by her colleagues, she makes it her mission to solve the case, driving her to seek help from the original Jigsaw Man himself, Peter Oliver. Oliver, however, is determined to get to his copycat before Henley can, and sets into motion a series of events that puts Henley and her family in the crosshairs of two monstrous serial killers.

Author Q&A

You are a criminal defense attorney in London. Has real life ever been stranger than fiction?
Most definitely life has been stranger than fiction. My most memorable case involved a woman accused of fraud and had used multiple identities. My client insisted that she was, let’s call her, Emma Smith, even when the prosecution brought the real Emma Smith and her entire family to court. It was absolutely crazy and to this day I am no closer to knowing this woman’s true identity.

What's something about your job that you wish people knew?
There is absolutely no glamour in my job. My working life is not an episode of Suits. Sitting around in police station at 4am is not glamorous and there is so much time spent waiting. I was never told in law school that I would spend so much time waiting for either clients to arrive, or for the police to be ready for interview. There was one occasion where I attended court for my case which was scheduled to start at 10am. The case wasn’t called on until 3.30pm.

Will there be more books with DI Anjelica Henley?
Absolutely. DI Anjelica Henley’s story isn’t over. I’ve recently finished book 2 in the series so there will definitely be more of her.

Why do think there aren't as many #ownvoices novels in the mystery/thriller genre?
There are many #ownvoices in the mystery/thriller genre but for some inexplicable reason these voices are not being elevated or promoted as voraciously. I suspect that there’s a misconception that #ownvoices writers can only tell one type of story which is not true. Our storytelling is as diverse as the #ownvoices writers. I’m hopeful that things are now changing and that these talented writers are being placed on a higher platform.

What are some of your favorite #ownvoices novels?
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, This Lovely City by Louise Hare, Take it Back by Kia Abdullah

Do you work from an outline or just fly by the seat of your pants?
I could never fly from the seat of my pants. My characters would be wandering around aimlessly in the middle of a field if I didn’t have a plan. I always outline the first draft of my book. I call my outline a safety net. My outline is not something that I stick to rigidly as sometimes a character can take you off in an unexpected direction and a subplot can appear out of nowhere.

Coffee or Tea?
Tea! Always tea with milk, sugar and a biscuit on the side! There has to be biscuits.

What do you use to inspire you when you get Writer’s Block?
Nature. The best thing for me to do if I get stuck is to leave the house. I will usually walk around my local park or go to the river. I love being near water and I find that it’s the best place to be if I need to expand my mind.

Favorite Season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)?
This is not an easy question because I love all seasons. I love the crispness of winter, the new beginnings of Spring and the gentleness of Fall, but Summer is probably my favorite season. Summer feels like freedom.

What has been the hardest thing about publishing? What has been the most fun?
The hardest thing has been trying to meet the deadline for the second book whilst trying to finish edits on the first book. The most fun has been holding my book in my hands for the first time and having readers contacting me to say how much they’ve enjoyed ‘The Jigsaw Man.’

What advice would you give budding authors?
Read a lot and write the story that you want to tell. Don’t worry about what’s number one in the bestseller charts or if anyone will buy your book. The most important thing is to write your story and to finish.

Who would play DI Henley in the TV/movie adaptation?
Naomie Harris.

Do you find yourself unnerved or even somewhat scared while writing crime stories?
No. There’s not been one moment where I’ve felt the need to fall asleep with the light on after whilst writing my stories. It may be that I’m very skilled at compartmentalizing. I’ve always said I wouldn’t have lasted six weeks if thought about all of the cases that I’d worked on as a newly qualified Criminal Defence Attorney. I’m able to sleep very well at night.

What are you reading right now?
Lightseekers by Femi Kayode.

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