Dead Scared by S J Bolton

Dead ScaredDC Lacey Flint, still recovering from the events of Now You See Me, is contacted by boss and part-time love interest DI Mark Joesbury with an assignment. Go to St John’s College at Cambridge University, pretending to be a student, and keep an eye on things. The previous week, a student burst into the college evening meal having just set herself on fire. But she’s not the only suicide at the university. As Lacey looks into things, more and more names come to light. Names of young women who have reported having terrifying nightmares. Young women who then go on to kill themselves.

Her point of contact at the University is Dr Evi Oliver – a psychology lecturer who is the one who spotted the beginnings of a pattern in the deaths. But Evi herself is being terrorised, haunted by images that only she knows about – or is it all in her head? Lacey starts to go beyond her brief as she starts to put things together – but then she starts having the nightmares…

I really enjoyed the first in this series when I read it – somewhat to my surprise. So, is it two out of two?

As with the first book in the series – now up to three books and a short ebook – this is more of a thriller than a mystery. Part narrated in the first person by Lacey, otherwise in the third person, this book contains a number of twists and turns in the plot before things reach their conclusion. However there is a strong whodunnit element to this one – not much of a spoiler that there is a hand behind the suicides – and there is a decent amount of logic behind the identity of the culprit. While it certainly isn’t a classic-style mystery (and doesn’t try to be), if you put your mind to it, you might be able to spot the villain.

What might hinder you, though, is some deeply bizarre behaviour at times from the villain. The overall scheme makes sense but some of the individual steps are extremely odd – certainly one or two aspects are the evil master-plan equivalent of urinating in your own swimming pool, and the bright police officer, or thriller reader, probably should spot it a lot quicker than actually happened. There are a couple of gaps in college life logic too – one major incident that happens to Lacey early in the book simply wouldn’t happen in a Cambridge college these days, and if it did, the college authorities would be all over it, rather than seemingly happily allowing it to happen.

But these are niggles, nothing more. This is a genuine page-turner and I honestly couldn’t put it down at times. It took me a little while to get used to the repeated switches between first and third person – often in the middle of a chapter – but once I did, I couldn’t put the book down. Oh, and major points for S J Bolton NOT spoiling the first book. I was rather impressed that she managed this, given the major events at the end of that one, but it was very well addressed.

Anyway, with the proviso that it’s more of a thriller than a mystery, Highly Recommended.


  1. I enjoyed this one too. It was my first S J Bolton and I was very impressed by the compelling nature of the narrative. The next book in the series is good too!


    • Good to hear that, Sarah, I’m looking forward to it. If you liked this one, I would recommend the first one, as I think it’s better – much better. Less of a mystery, but none of the somewhat illogical behaviour by the bad guys.


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