Stop Me – Richard Jay Parker

SMRJP Stop Me is a novel that involves a serial killer and traverses both the USA and Europe, with a protagonist based in London.  The 'vacation killer' operates by sending out a chain email suggesting the recipient forwards it on to ten other people in the hope that he ultimately receives the same email back, which will save the woman he has kidnapped. Failure to achieve this within the specified time frame results in evidence of the woman's death delivered to the authorities.  The killer operates in the US, but soon, Europe feels the impact of his twisted mind.

In London, and in the spate of the rushed but organised last-minute shopping that occurs before Christmas, Leo Sharpe loses his wife Laura.  She simply disappears.  He receives a vacation killer email and the time elapses but nothing of Laura is delivered to prove her death.  Thus we have Leo living another version of life after Laura's disappearance, ever-optimistic that Laura is still alive and spared, just no longer with him.  It is with Leo and through Leo that we learn of the story.

Leo's optimism is not without grief and frustration as he suffers insomnia and an addiction to temazepam to counteract it.  He lives in the hope that Laura is still alive somewhere and becomes embroiled with the person who claims to be the 'vacation killer' on the internet seeking his help, even if his sister-in-law tries to beat some verbal common sense into him.

Sometimes, we need and feel a desire to read a novel that draws us in on a fast plot alone and this is one of those books.  This 'quick fix' for me was a read in three swift sittings.  The driver was in finding out what had happened to Laura and how it would be resolved.  I had my suspicions about a third of the way in, but RJP's resolution left me feeling as if I had a badly-programmed sat-nav for a brain.  This is a novel that is easy to pick up and very hard to put down.

It's obviously dark but not without humour, either.  Watch out for Leo's take on a family sitting down to a meal at a fast-food outlet in the US; it's very dry and satirical given what we read in the press these days.

This novel does what it says in its title: 'Stop Me', in this case from reading this, just try it!  Its plot involves our contemporary world of internet interaction and something that is possibly far harder than actually losing someone in death: having no idea what happened to them.  It's a great debut, perfect for that quick thrill read in crime fiction when you have that moment in time or need that quick fix.  A perfect holiday read too, if you are still to take the annual summer variety.

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