Monday 12 April 2021

Review | The Embalmer by Alison Belsham

Published by Trapeze on March 18, 2021

The Embalmer is the third book in Alison Belsham’s Tattoo Thief series. I must admit I chose to read this book pretty much solely based on the cover so initially I wasn’t aware that this was part of a series, let alone the final book in a trilogy. However, from the first few chapters it is clear that these are returning characters with a lot of history and a quick check shows that the story here follows that of The Tattoo Thief and Her Last Breath.

Any struggles I had keeping up with the links between the characters to begin with were quickly forgotten by just how intrigued I was by the creepy opening chapter and the twisted acts of the serial killer. Yes it was a bit jarring at first knowing I was missing out on some details but this was at no fault of the writing or the story itself as both were extremely fascinating and had this book lingering on my mind whenever I wasn’t reading it, so much so I got the novel confused with a crime series I had been watching on TV around the same time as I was picturing this book playing out in my head so much I actually thought I had been watching it. The Embalmer could be read as a standalone but really I would recommend starting from the first book in the series to get the full experience. It was seriously gripping and had me eager to read more from this author.

In the Embalmer, the series returns to the character of detective Francis Sullivan who receives a call out to Brighton’s Natural History Museum where he is presented with a freshly mummified body. The findings were enough to send a shiver down my spine and whilst the first victim’s fate was gruesome enough, things only got more disturbing with more jars of body parts leading to a truly edge-of-your-seat race against time to stop yet another life being taken.

The Embalmer also continued the story of Marni Mullins, who is caught in the middle of a battle between her ex-husband Thierry and his brother Paul, resulting in one of them losing their life and Marni being charged with their murder. It was evident Marni had been a vital character in previous books so it took me a little bit of time to get up to speed with her backstory, but I found it didn’t take too long before the author had me sympathising with her and rooting for things to work out for her.

Both threads to the story here intertwine satisfyingly, as Marni’s fate became just as important as the battle to put an end to the serial killer was. Each part of the book had good pace to it, enough to drag the reader in whilst catching them off guard with another sinister twist.

Sullivan’s character was perfect for a top crime series. He is flawed but also respected. He invests often too heavily in his cases but is good at his job. The strong characterisation of the detective made this book all the more engrossing but truthfully I found everything about this book had me engrossed. The Embalmer was bursting with originality and had a lingering graphic, gory edge to it that was truly compelling. Fast-paced and atmospheric, this was one eerie book that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review. 

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