Cover Image: Survivor’s Guilt

Survivor’s Guilt

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Member Reviews

Matilda Darke is finally back after surviving an attack that killed friends & colleagues, but is she up to it? Especially as it now seems there could be someone locally killing women. 

This is a really tense, well written thriller, with a totally unexpected ending. Part way through I was convinced I knew who it was, but boy was I wrong. The survivors guilt of the title is really well handled, after such a devastating incident, but I don’t think that Matilda would have been allowed back in charge of the team quite so easily. She also does a few things that no DCI would do. I know this was part of her story but those bits weren’t believable for me. That said, thoroughly good read and I can’t wait for the next in the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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What another fantastic book from this author which is just brilliantly addictive and I couldn't stop reading from the beginning until the end.

I just love the Matilda Darke series and reading about her and her colleagues I cannot speak highly enough about them.  Just three more words to say ......... "What a brilliant ending", I never saw that one coming.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins (OMC) for giving me the opportunity to read this book which I can thoroughly recommend but you need to start with Book 1 in my opinion.
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EXCERPT: It was a chilly morning. The clocks were put back at the weekend. Winter was on its way. She hated the dark mornings and the early dark evenings, and she didn't relish coming to the woods alone to exercise Buttons. He wasn't even a year old yet, so he wouldn't be able to tackle someone if she was attacked.

'Buttons?' she called again. 'You want your ball?'

She heard a yap and followed the noise. There was no denying having a dog was good exercise for her, too, but right now, all she wanted was to go to bed and wrap that big duvet around her.

Up ahead, she found the spaniel lying down in a clearing. He never did that. It was almost as if he'd had enough running around and playing and wanted to rest. She hoped he wasn't injured or had eaten something he shouldn't have. It was only a few years ago she read about some sick bastard putting meat laced with broken glass in Meersbrook Park to injure cats and dogs.

'Buttons, are you all right?' She ran towards him and stopped before she reached him.

He wasn't injured at all. He was lying at the side of a woman who, judging by her appearance, was dead, and had clearly been dead for some time.

ABOUT 'SURVIVOR'S GUILT': A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

MY THOUGHTS: Michael Wood knows how to write a book that has your heart almost constantly pounding while it is leaping into your mouth. Survivor's Guilt is the best book yet in this series.

Before we go any further, this is a series that needs to be read as a series as past events and relationships are often referred to. It would be possible to read Survivor's Guilt as a stand-alone, but for the full impact I recommend that you begin at the beginning.

Matilda (Mat) has been off work on extended rehabilitation leave after having been shot in the head in book #7. Seven police were killed in the mass shooting that left Mat fighting for her life, some of them members of her team, hence the very apt title 'Survivor's Guilt'. Now Mat is back but, of course, nothing is the same. Not only is the old camaraderie affected, but Mat's behaviour is somewhat erratic. She doesn't seem to trust her remaining team members like she used to and consequently isn't sharing information with everyone. This leads to a lot of tension within the team.

There is also a new team member, Zofia Nowak, who has wanted to be a detective from a very young age. Zofia is dedicated, ambitious and eager to impress; so eager that she puts herself in danger to do so.

Mat and Adele, friends and confidants for many years, are still estranged following the mass shooting in which Adele's son was also killed. This is another loss that Mat feels keenly.

A case from four years previously, one that has haunted Mat, is finally resolved, but continues to have ripple effects. And the new case, that of a murdered prostitute, escalates quickly as more bodies are found. I loved Wood's sensitive and compassionate take on the prostitutes, while still providing an honest look at their lives. It's a good reminder that none of us know what's ahead of us, and that everyone has a story to tell. Bev and Sarah are just two of the wonderful characters that abound in this book. The much maligned Dermot is another.

The earth tilted for me when the case was solved. I never saw that coming; never entertained the idea . . . I was gob-smacked!

Even though that case is solved, Michael Wood doesn't like to leave things nicely tidied up. He drops another couple of depth charges into the plot that left me wanting #9 in this series RIGHT NOW!

Survivor's Guilt is dark, gritty and full of unexpected twists and turns, none of which I saw coming. Totally deserving of the full five stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SurvivorsGuilt #NetGalley

I: @michaelwoodbooks @onemorechapter

T: @MichaelHWood @OneMoreChapter

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #serialkillerthriller #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Survivor's Guilt by Michael Wood for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
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5 Stars 

I always have such a dilemma with each new Michael Wood book - do I delay reading it, do I dive straight in, do I pace myself or do I devour it?

(In case you are interested, I tend to delay reading it and then devour it.)

Things didn't look great for Matilda at the end of the last book but she isn't one to shy away from difficult situations and she is soon battling her demons again in order to find a killer.

Although this book does well to recap a little on the past, I really must insist (yes, insist) that you go back and read the series in order - start with For Reasons Unknown and work your way through them.

In Survivor's Guilt, Matilda is struggling with so much and seems to be on her own with it, her usual goto support networks aren't all available to her and she finds herself counting presidents again... The remaining team are left a little rudderless and things look to be in jeopardy.

It's wonderful to have Carl back, I've mentioned before that in my mind he is one of the 'real' unsolved missing children that will haunt this generation, the parts of the story relating to him are brutally fascinating.

As are the main serial killer parts of this book - these seemed especially real to me as I lived quite near to the location of the Suffolk prostitute murders at the time and had driven past Levington Woodland the day before one of the poor ladies was discovered. I remember being horrified by the statistics of how many prostitues are the victims of serial killers. 

Overall, I find that Michael writes so well that the lines between truth and story always seem to blur and I am so deeply invested in the 'people' that he creates. 

And as for that ending...

This series is undeniably brilliant and I remain convinced it will soon become televised. I for one can't wait to watch and am already looking forward to Michael's next book.

Note – this is book 8 in a series, please read the others first:

For Reasons Unknown
Outside Looking In
A Room Full of Killers
The Hangman’s Hold
The Murder House
Stolen Children
Time is Running Out
and a short story Victim of Innocence
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I don’t think there has ever been a book that has left me as conflicted as this one has. As a stand-alone, it would have worked incredibly well. As the eighth book in a series I’ve loved, most of it just made me sad.

After the carnage of the previous instalment in this series, I told myself that was it for me and Matilda Darke. Too many changes and none sat well with me. But I didn’t count on this ugly little thing called curiosity and so here we are.

Straight away, I found myself feeling rather annoyed and disappointed. Nine months have gone by since the devastating events that killed so many beloved characters and so the reader isn’t even given the opportunity to grieve them along with the remaining characters. Characters, who on the whole, seem to be doing just fine. Except for Matilda, who shouldn’t even be at work. I’ve always admired her, now I felt like throttling her.

Then, in what felt like a desperate attempt and somewhat of a cheap trick, the case of the missing Carl Megan comes to an end. Kind of. I honestly couldn’t help but feel this was done to distract the reader from the fact that about 90% of the characters was missing. If so, it didn’t work.

The investigation into the missing prostitutes was hugely compelling, however. I liked that we were told some of their background stories, that the author made the effort to have them across as actual human beings. With clients all over the place, it was impossible to figure out who was responsible. I couldn’t even begin to guess at it. The ultimate reveal was definitely shocking. For me it was also the last nail in the coffin and the moment where I decided this is the end of the road for me.

I’ve been with this series since the very beginning. The first six books were outstanding, one after the other. Then it stopped working for me. I don’t mind changes. I completely understand they are important to keep a long running series fresh. Yet, I still feel this was overkill. And with yet another change in this instalment, it almost feels as if this author hates the characters he’s spent so long creating. It’s been a most thrilling ride but I’m getting off now.
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Excellent police procedural with a tortured DCI Darke back at the helm 😌

The previous book in this series (Time is Running Out) was so dark I wondered if the series would or could continue.  I am glad that Survivor's Guilt, though filled with major characters attempting to cope with their grief and guilt, is not so hopelessly dark.   It's a fascinating story, in a good part thanks to the bloodbath in Time Is Running Out.

Loved the serial killer investigation through all its twists and surprises and the continuation of young Carl's story.  The murder case is new to the series and centers in the red light district of Sheffield where prostitutes are being targeted whereas Carl's abduction and the continued search for him has been a thread weaving through the series.  Just when we thought he and his parents had achieved their happy reunification, Wood throws in some new issues that keep Matilda involved.  

This story is filled with survivors who have suffered the deaths of their nearest and dearest in a senseless rampage nine months previous.  Some are coping much better than others.  The emotional heart of this story is not as much related to the serial killer's victims as it is to Matilda's colleagues and decimated team.  I typically prefer police procedurals that concentrate on the cases and less on the personal lives of the investigators but, in this instance, it was riveting and appropriate after the carnage they personally faced in the previous book.

Thanks to Harper Collins UK/One More Chapter and NetGalley for sharing a complimentary advance copy of the book;  this is my voluntary and honest opinion.
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I chose to read and review a free eARC of Survivor's Guilt but that has in no way influenced my review.

I could not wait to get my mitts on this book. After the devastating events of the previous book, Time is Running Out, I was keen to see where the author would take Darke and her team next. I will say at this point that I feel you need to have read the last couple of books to get a feel for what the characters have been through in the lead up to this new investigation, and where they all are emotionally. Going in blind, reading this book without prior knowledge will leave you asking questions. However, I will also say that this is a series worth investing in. Wood is a courageous writer who has his readers on the edge of their seat from start to finish. And there's always a breath-taking twist to the tale.

DCI Matilda Darke has returned to work after being shot in the head nine months earlier. The dynamic within her team has changed noticeably in her absence but there's not a lot of time to dwell on that as a body has been found and it's down to the Homicide and Major Crime Unit to find the killer. The victim is a local prostitute and on closer inspection, she bears similar wounds to another cold-case murder victim, also a prostitute. Could a serial killer be targeting Sheffield prostitutes? And can Darke and her team find the killer before it's too late...?

Oh, how things have changed. After the devastation of the last book it's clear the team is still hurting. Matilda's return, instead of bringing the HMCU back together, seems to fracture it even further. She is, after all, a changed woman, dealing with her own trauma and suffering silently from survivor's guilt. Her support network is not as strong as it once was and perhaps, as a result, she feels she has something to prove. Which inevitably ends up frustrating the other members of the team, particularly her longstanding supporters DI Brady and DS Mills. The author has moved the Carl Meagan storyline on in this book which also distracts Matilda from the new investigation. It's clear that our once driven, focussed and ambitious DCI is struggling to cope.

But whether - or not - Matilda is fit for the job, there is still a killer stalking the streets of Sheffield and it's down to the HMCU to stop them. The author knows how to keep his readers on the edge of their seats and as a result, I was drawn immediately into the investigation. With a long running series you often meet characters who aren't necessarily a part of the main cast but help move things along. Prostitutes Bev and Sarah are two such characters. The team often turn to them for their knowledge of the streets, popping up here and there but not contributing a lot. However, they both played an important part in Survivor's Guilt and I enjoyed getting to know them better. The other characters - the more well known members of the team who feature regularly - continue to be very well written.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Survivor's Guilt is another fantastic, thrilling read and a terrific addition to a strong series. However, I don't think this book will work as well if you're reading it as a standalone. I strongly recommend you read a couple of the earlier books in the series first, in particular Time is Running Out. You have been warned! That's the last I'm going to say on the matter, lol. The ending was a complete and utter shock to me. My detective skills failed me once again and I wasn't able to work out whodunit so when the reveal happened...O.M.G.!!! Bloody marvellous. With great character development and a writer who isn't afraid to mix things up a little, I'm excited to see what happens to Matilda & Co. next. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Survivor's Guilt. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
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Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a horrific shooting incident that claimed the lives of numerous people. Many of them were her friends and colleagues at the police station she works in. Matilda was shot in the head, and was in a coma, and had to undertake a grueling recovery process. Physically she is nearly fully recovered. Mentally, she is plagued by nightmares and guilt - why did she survive when so many others didn’t?

As soon as she is cleared to return to work she throws herself back into it. But there is no easing back in slowly. A woman found dead in the forest sends off alarm bells. There seems to be connections to other cold case murders. Could it be a serial killer? The investigation quickly grows, with the body count quickly rising. But sadly, so are tensions rising on what used to be a tight knit team. As the investigation stalls, the team begins to fall apart. If they can’t trust one another and work together, how can they save lives? Should Matilda really be back at work?

I had not read the precursor to this book, so I felt I was missing out on a lot of backstory. But Wood skillfully brings enough of the narrative in from the previous history so that you don’t feel completely lost as a reader, which you appreciate. You feel like you can keep up, and still enjoy the investigation that is unfolding before you. This book ends in a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more. I shall be sourcing a copy of the book previous to this one first, so that I feel like a fully fledged member of the team first however! A very enjoyable read, gritty, atmospheric, and a real page turner. You won’t want to stop until you finish it.

&I received this book from Netgalley for review, but all opinions are my own.
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Not going to lie…it was with some trepidation that I picked up the 8th book in this brilliant series. Michael Wood had left his characters and me, traumatised by the events of Book 7. Now we are back, picking up the pieces and looking around to see what’s left.

Lives have been ended. Mental and physical wounds are in some cases beginning to heal; in others there’s a long way to go yet. Friendships have been fractured, and D.CI. Matilda Darke is full of grief, guilt and is unable to express how she is feeling to anyone.

Her team are in sore need of uniting under her leadership and yet as she returns to work, in many ways she is as absent as when she was on recuperative leave. The reader needs that sense of things getting back to normal, too, but Michael Wood isn’t one the kind of author who sees it as his job to make the reader feel better.

Matilda may be back at work, but she’s not herself. Nowhere near it, in fact. Her brain injury may be healing, but she’s not cleared to drive yet and things are about as far from normal as they could be. Matilda’s sister and her children are staying with her for the moment and her mother is close by, but she can’t speak to either of them about what’s she’s going through.

An old case, one that has haunted Matilda for years, looks to be resolved, but Matilda is still beating herself up for a lapse that occurred on the day her husband died and she’s not getting much joy from that resolution. Not only that but the annoying local journalist, Danny is still on her case, hounding her for that elusive interview; wanting to poke and pry into her innermost grief.

When it seems that the team have a serial killer on their hands, there’s concern that Matilda may not be up to the stress and challenges that such a big case brings. The team feels unsettled, missing their former colleagues, still haunted by the shootings they witnessed and not anywhere near ready to move on. They need leadership, but can Matilda provide it?

Verdict: Michael Wood reflects the restlessness and unsettled nature of this team so well. Refusing to reassure our anxious hearts, he creates more tension and strife within the team as we watch, heartbroken to see the fault lines that have developed between them. The tensions of this case are brittle and for the reader there is the sense that something might snap really soon. When it comes, the crisis point is sharp and brutal. Wood gives no quarter to his characters and the shocks keep coming, thick and fast. It seems that this team have a lot to go through before they can expect to have earned some respite.

As a reader that makes for a tense, exciting novel, full of danger and ratcheted up with edge of the seat tension and heightened emotion. It seems we’re in for a bumpy ride. But I would not have it any other way.
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‘What’s the point in surviving if everyone you care about is dead?’ - cover tag line.

My thanks to One More Chapter for an invitation via  NetGalley to read and review ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ by Michael Wood in exchange for an honest review. 

This is Book 8 in his DCI Matilda Darke series of police procedurals set in Sheffield. Unfortunately although I had read earlier books in the series, I had missed Book 7, ‘Time is Running Out’ published in February. It became quickly obvious that the outcome of that novel was relevant to this one, including Matilda only now returning to work with a reduced team.

To his credit, Wood does provide enough background that I was able to understand the progression of events as well as more details about the botched kidnapping case from 2015 that has been haunting DCI Darke. 

This takes place nine months after the events of ‘Time is Running Out’. The body of a woman is found with wounds that look eerily similar to several cold cases. Could a stealthy serial killer be preying on the street workers of Sheffield? 

This was quite a ride! A very fast-paced twisty plot that had me completely hooked. I am planning to fill in the missing book before the next case for DCI Darke and her team.

Definitely one of my favourite series of police procedurals.
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Thank you to #NetGalley and #OneMoreChapter for the advance copy of #Survivor’sGuilt by #MichaelWood. 
This is the 8th book in the DCI Martha Darke series and they just keep getting better. 
Less than a year ago Martha was shot in the head and friends and colleagues  killed. After extensive therapy and learning to talk and walk again Martha is back at work but is it to soon. Someone is killing women in Sheffield and it has gone unnoticed for 3 years. As the bodies mount up Martha seems to be struggling, can her colleagues rely on her to make the right decisions. The pace builds throughout the book and will keep you glued to your seat. 
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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This book is an emotional rollercoaster and a gripping thriller.
The human side, the relationships are as important as the mystery part and the author did an excellent job in describing the grief and the strain as well as keeping me focus on the mystery.
Excellent storytelling and character development, a riveting plot that kept me reading.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I’d like to thank HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read ‘Survivor’s Guilt’, book eight in the DCI Matilda Wood series written by Michael Wood, in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

As DCI Matilda Darke is struggling to recover from the near-fatal injuries that cost the lives of other members of her team, she’s called on to investigates the disappearance and murder of street girls in Sheffield who appear to be the victims of a serial killer.  

‘Survivor’s Guilt’ is one of the most exciting thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to read and it’s had me gripped from page one.  The plot is complex and full of action, drama, suspense and twists and turns that’s made me carry on reading late into the night unable to stop.  Matilda Darke and her team are so perfectly described it’s easy to forget they’re fictional characters.  I’ve been so involved in the story that I’ve been glued to the edge of my seat, open-mouthed in amazement that an author can write a novel with such a heart-stopping and shocking conclusion.  This thriller is amazing, it deserves far more than five stars and I thoroughly recommend it.
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Love the Matilda Darke series, and this book is an excellent addition to the series.   Telling the aftermath of the shooting and Matilda’s return to work and struggle therein to return to a normal life.

Thoroughly enjoyable and looking forward to the next in the series
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I highly recommend reading Time's Running Out before reading this one.  After the drama and events of the previous book, I was quite nervous reading this one.

Matilda and the team are trying to come to terms with what happened 9 months previously while trying to catch a killer.

The emotions running through this book was heartbreaking at times. I just wanted to hug them all.

The plot built quite slowly to a nerve-wracking,  thrilling OMG finale. I did not see that  coming!

Absolutely brilliant book in one of the best series around.
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"The problem with surviving was that you ended up with the ghosts with everyone you ever left behind riding on your shoulders." - Paolo Bacigalupi

It's been nine months.

Nine months since the brutal attacked claimed so many lives. Nine months since Matilda Darke was shot in the head. The Nightmares have not ended, lives have been changed, that pain never leaves, and friendships have been altered.

But there is a job to do. Murdered women are being found and the team, already strained from that tragic day nine months ago, are investigating. Matilda has returned to work, and she is trying wear many hats. A case from the past, which haunted, her has been solved, but this new case is hitting close to home....

The last book Time Is Running Out gutted me. I could not believe what I was reading. It had me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding, tears spilling, and I worried that the series was going to end. But it has gone on and readers get to be spectators watching this team still crippled with grief, PTSD, and nightmares, pick themselves up and attempt to move on. Their pain is raw and palpable. They dive into this new case, investigating the murders of prostitutes, while their killer always seems to be one step ahead of the team.

This book kept me on my toes, doing my own detective work, trying to figure out the identity of the killer. I didn't even come close and was just as blindsided as the team. HOLY MOLY! What a shocker that was!!! I needed to pick my jaw up off the floor (well, really my kindle).

Michael Wood always has a few aces up his sleeve, and he didn't hold back with this book either. I thought he did a tremendous job showing how trauma and loss affects people. He was able to draw me in, toy with my emotions and blow me away.

Another solid installment in the Matilda Drake Series and I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Powerful, shocking, and intense!


Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Michael Wood is a master of the crime thriller! This book is set 9 months after the tragic events of the previous book where Jake Harrison went on a killing spree that ended the lives of many police and other people including some we have grown fond of throughout this series.

DCI Matilda Darke has finally returned after being horrifically injured in the previous story. While her body might have recovered there is some doubt about whether she is mentally fit to return to her job and lead the team again. The team is short staffed although there is one new member - DC Zofia Nowak. They are thrown in at the deep end as a series of prostitutes are killed. Everybody’s favourite journalist (not) Danny Hanson points them towards some missing women and the numbers are climbing alarmingly. 

There is one bright spot though as a child kidnapped 4 years is returned home unharmed - but is he really unharmed? Matilda finds herself torn between the cases and her desperate sadness and is struggling to lead her team effectively. Her best friend, Adele, who lost a son in the shooting rampage, blames Matilda and has cut her out of her life. This is particularly hurtful for Matilda. Thank goodness her sister is staying with her for the time being. 

While the killings are one focus of this book, the other major focus is on the various ways the team is coping or not coping after the tragedy. It was hard to read about the mighty warrior for justice (Matilda) almost broken by events. 

The cases are quite interesting and you wonder how this killer will ever be caught. When he is, it’s a twist of Herculean proportions. My jaw nearly hit the floor. But my lips are sealed. As with the previous book, this one ends with a cliffhanger, also jaw dropping, and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for us next. Many thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK, One more Chapter for the much appreciated arc which I reviewed voluntarily and honestly.
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I have followed and loved these characters from the beginning and feel like I know them personally, they are real to me and I go through everything with them. I could literally shout and screen how good these books are. Already longing for the next one. Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for an advance copy.
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Matilda Darke is back , after what happened in the last instalment Matilda is not feeling back to her best . She is acting out of sorts and ruffling a few feathers within her team.
The team are investigating the murders of a number of Sheffield prostitutes , and Matilda is reunited with Carl Meagan , he was kidnapped over  four years ago , and life back home is not as easy as everyone thought it would be.
Michael Wood’s writing gets better with each new book , there are twists and turns that  left me urging Matilda on.
I loved the ending , and cannot wait for the next book in the series. This book is definitely a rollercoaster of a read I didn’t think the last one could be surpassed , but I was wrong ( pleasantly so!) 

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter.
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“You’re a survivor aren’t you, Matilda? But what’s the point of surviving, when everyone around you is dead?”

These are the words haunting DCI Matilda Darke as she returns to begin her eighth investigation with the Homicide and Major Crime Unit based in Sheffield. A case that has blighted the DCI’s  career for the past four years, that of the kidnap of Carl Meagan, is about to be happily concluded with his long awaited return home. For Matilda, finally back  to work following her near death experience which cost a number of her team members their lives, she’s keen to focus on this unexpected positive outcome whilst battling her survivor’s guilt and processing all the conflicting emotions associated with so much tragedy and loss. Elsewhere in Sheffield the focus is on the red light district and the disappearance and/or murder of a growing tally of prostitutes. 

Even though I confess to not having read every single book in the series I was eager to catch up with Matilda and her colleagues, previously  finding them to be a thoroughly likeable, down to earth bunch, with well developed backstories, and an often entertaining group dynamic. Plus the author more or less guarantees his readers a well paced juicy storyline to sink their teeth into alongside whatever the team’s current personal issues happen to be. It soon becomes clear that a great deal has been happening in Sheffield since I was last in the company of these dedicated, hard working individuals and I regretted the fact I’d somehow missed out on  book number 7. However Michael Wood does a great job in bringing those readers lagging behind up to speed, frequently alluding to the past and the shocking, devastating circumstances surrounding Matilda’s protracted absence from her job but I still wasn’t fully prepared for the fact so many of the regulars have been brutally killed off!! I thought I’d misread the situation but no, this is the reality the now depleted team face, their colleagues sorely missed but not forgotten. Thus the mood is sombre and reflective as we rejoin them for another investigation but you cannot fault their professionalism. The easy going straight talking banter and camaraderie may be diluted for the time being but there are glimpses of it peeking through the storyline and with new recruit Zofia joining the ranks, keen to make a good impression, you like to think in time these colleagues will find their way towards a new normal. Much of that depends upon a visibly altered Matilda and whether she still warrants her place in the hot seat. She seems incapable of preventing the cracks that are dividing her off from the rest of her colleagues especially DC Christian Brady, DS Siân Mills and best friend Adele from deepening further. Up until now they’ve remained fiercely loyal and protective of their leader but they’re beginning to lose patience and faith in her ability to conduct this investigation and bring it to a successful conclusion. Distracted by Carl’s homecoming and suffering horrendous flashbacks of the attack that put her in a coma Matilda is definitely on the edge, permanently stuck in fight or flight mode, pushing everyone away with her sharp tongue and erratic behaviour. She’s sadly morphed into a Jekyll and Hyde figure, wary, mistrustful with an air of the green eyed monster about her. Definitely nothing like the Matilda fans of the series will know and love and I found myself losing a certain amount of respect for her. 

Really the storyline is tragic on so many levels, from the four years Sally and Philip have lived without their son, to the decimation of the unit, the relationships that lay in tatters, to the growing number of prostitutes targeted by a ruthless, audacious killer committing these crimes without fear of detection. I loved the focus on the plight of sex workers plying their trade on the streets of Sheffield, a plot which is executed well with an enormous amount of compassion shown towards these vulnerable women who for varying reasons have found themselves selling their bodies and their souls just to survive. The bravery, desperation and hopelessness of these women facing danger on a frequent basis is keenly felt. Bev is a superb character. Her hyper vigilance is an added bonus to this investigation whilst her natural air of protectiveness towards her fellow workers, in particular Sarah who is well and truly nestled under her wing is quite touching. For shock value alone this novel is brilliant. It’s dark, dangerous, tense and twisty and the manner in which the culprit is identified and apprehended terrifyingly risky, dramatic, shocking and tragic. My eyes were popping out of their sockets!  The author has played an ace card with this out of the blue twist and although I thought I was on the right track I couldn’t quite make the final connection, possibly because it’s SO mind boggling. I must admit I struggled to believe the amount of trust placed in Matilda by certain characters; a fear borne out when part of her plans end up going awry, the result of which have a lasting and devastating impact on those involved. It’s as if she feels she has a point to prove and prove it she will no matter the cost! I felt that some of Matilda’s personal issues are too easily resolved and I was relieved that the Carl Meagan thread has been satisfactorily tied up, having been dragged out long enough. Personally I thought it was an unnecessary distraction from the main plot even if it does show Matilda in a sympathetic light and allows her to shed her guilt over her role in Carl’s disappearance. Except in truth she’s simply swapping one bucketload of guilt for another! These criticisms (almost) pale into insignificance thanks to an absolute corker of a cliffhanger. With a few carefully chosen words to pique your interest and arouse your curiosity Michael Wood ensures his readers will remain on tenterhooks, desperate for the arrival of book 9! 

On reflection this is a good, enjoyable instalment in a series I’m happy to recommend. 

My thanks as always to the publisher OMC and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read in exchange for an honest review.
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