Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton (Lacey Flint series #2)

Jesus, what was I thinking? I had no idea how to be an undercover officer. SO10 trained its officers rigorously. The programme was tough and not everyone who applied made it through. Whilst it wasn’t unusual for run-of-the-mill detectives to go undercover, they were rarely sent into situations that lasted any amount of time. Besides, I’d joined the Met to work on serious crimes against women. If I spent the next few months off the grid, I could miss the chance to transfer to one of the specialist units. Why had I agreed?

Like I needed the answer to that one. I was doing it for Joesbury.

13120860Here is a mystery series on which I have become good and hooked. S.J. Bolton knows how to write a page-turner. Dead Scared is set in the academic world of Cambridge, where an alarming trend of grisly apparent suicides and suicide attempts has set the University on edge. Most of the victims are attractive young women, and DC Lacey Flint is recruited to pose undercover as a student. The police think that perhaps someone is encouraging these vulnerable young women to end their lives, perhaps on an online chat room. What Flint uncovers is much darker than she ever imagined.

As with the first in the series, Now You See Me, Bolton includes some nice misdirection; I was sure that a certain character, to whom Lacey feels attracted, had something to do with the deaths. There is also an interesting secondary character, a professor named Dr. Evie Oliver, head of student counseling, who forms a bond with Lacey and is the only person on campus who knows that she is a detective. She’s treated some of the young women involved and feels a great interest in the investigation.  While Lacey is trying to settle into the routines of academic life, including a frightening episode of hazing (which actually disturbed me a great deal) involving a bucket of water on a cold night, Dr. Oliver is dealing with creepy things going on in her university-owned home. Pinecones (which hold significance for her) being left in a neat line in her driveway and in a pile on her dining room table, a wind-up “bone-man” going off in an upstairs closet, threatening message left in the steam of her bathroom mirror. But the police, for various reasons, don’t seem to exactly believe her. Things get scary for Lacey as well, as she deals with her feelings of inadequacy in the academic environment and starts having some vivid, terrifying dreams that feel all too real.

There is a tremendous sense of menace throughout this novel. While reading at night, I had to put the book down in a few places and wait to read it the next day in the safety and bright lights of my workplace break room! And I will warn you, the apparent suicides and attempts are very dark and gruesome. I normally don’t really go for stuff like that, but this series is so well-written and the relationship between the two main detectives, Lacey and DI Mark Joesbury, is so full of complicated and repressed attraction that I can’t help but be drawn in. I would say that if you’d not read the first in the series, you could still jump in with this one and be fine; there’s just enough allusion to the backstory that you’d feel up to speed and the plot is so engrossing you wouldn’t care. If you like British mysteries and can tolerate darker plot lines, I recommend you give these a try.

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20 thoughts on “Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton (Lacey Flint series #2)

  1. Campus murders: always fun. I read a trilogy by Linwood Barclay last year which touches on that scene as well (but it had a bunch of subplots, that only one of them) and it reminded me how much that environment suits a series of grisly crimes! This does sound like fun and I will keep the series in mind when looking for daylight-only reading (but you know I would have to begin at the beginning!).

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    1. I’ve not read Barclay but we have him here at my library. Maybe I should give him a try. Yes, I understand wanting to read a series from the beginning – I’m that way myself! I didn’t review the first one, I think I just mentioned it in a paragraph, but it’s good as well!

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  2. I think this is the darkest and the most chilling of the Lacey Flint books. It is the only one I haven’t been able to go back and re-read, perhaps because so much of my life has been spent on university campuses. Unfortunately, Bolton seems to have abandoned the series in favour of one off thrillers which I don’t enjoy anywhere near as much.

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    1. Good to know that this is the darkest, because I don’t know if I could go much darker! 🙂 It’s too bad if she’s abandoned the series. Maybe she’s just taking a break? I’ve not yet read her standalone thrillers, but I intend to.

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    1. Yes, Fiction Fan and another IRL friend of mine recommended these to me. They are easily available here in the US, hopefully in Canada! There are only four in the series and she’s got other standalone thrillers. I’m not sure if she’s planning on writing more of the Lacey Flint series.

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  3. Ugh! Your reviews for these books are SO GOOD, Laila! I wish I was even remotely interested in reading books like this. If I wasn’t so squeamish, I think that I would really enjoy these books. But yeah, books that keep me up at night and give me nightmares are not my thing. Heh. Thank you for convincing me I’m missing out, though!

    How many more books are in this series?

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    1. Ha ha! Thanks, Jackie! Yeah, I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I like these books. 😉 I don’t watch violent things if I can help it, but I seem to be able to stomach reading about violent creepy things better. There are two more in the series, but I’m not sure if she’s gonna write more.

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  4. Having the two detectives seems to make it more fun: with the repressed attraction. That’s a bit like JK Rowling’s Cormoran Strike mystery series. Hmm. But those probably aren’t as scary as this one sounds.

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    1. Yes, it’s not *quite* as repressed as Cormoran and Robin, but that’s an apt comparison. That reminds me, I love that series! I can’t wait for another one of those to come out. And you’re right, this one is much more frightening.

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  5. When you wrote that the main character felt inadequate in an academic setting and was having nightmares, I was like, “Yeah, I have school nightmares, too.” Then I realized you probably didn’t mean nightmares about classes! 😀

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  6. I have only read one Sharon Bolton and it was very dark too. I think it was further along on the series, so I was not familiar with the characters and it took me some time to get into the story (but I’m a series and serial reader, Type-A etc, I need ORDER). Should definitely give the series another try soon.

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