The Mayfly by James Hazel ~Goodreads~
Published by Bonnier Zaffre 2017
Paperback edition 432 pages ~Book Depository~
Thank you very much to the publisher for sending me this ARC for an honest review, and many thanks to James for providing an extract for this blog tour stop.
It’s happening again.
A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .
Charlie Priest, ex-detective inspector turned London lawyer, is hired by influential entrepreneur Kenneth Ellinder to investigate the murder of his son. But Priest is no ordinary lawyer. Brilliant, yet flawed, this case will push him, and those closest to him, to the edge.
Priest traces the evidence back to the desperate last days of the Second World War. Buried in the ashes of the Holocaust is a secret so deadly its poison threatens to destroy the very heart of the establishment.
With more victims going missing, Priest realises that not everyone should be trusted. As he races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?
“Schneider turned his head as far as he could and motioned towards the woman. Ruck waited a moment, chewing on his cigarette. He wasn’t going to unshackle his prisoner and arm him with a pen without careful thought. After a short while, he nodded at the two guards. The first covered Schneider with his Lewis gun while the second undid the cuffs and placed a piece of paper on the desk. Schneider looked up at Ruck expectantly who hesitated before tossing it in the Doctor’s direction. Schneider took it and scribbled something on the page before throwing the pen back.
Ruck took the paper and examined it. “You’re modifying strychnine. Why? It is already an efficient killer, is it not?”
“Perhaps too efficient.”
Ruck grimaced. He had had the misfortune of witnessing death by strychnine, a naturally occurring alkaloid extracted from the seeds of the native Indian strychnine tree. The poison worked quickly but death was agonising—the victims would spasm and contort grotesquely as though they were possessed.
“What was the purpose of these modifications?”
“Quite simply to keep death at the door without opening it and letting him in.”
“A poor way to carry out interrogation,” Ruck observed. “If that was the intention.”
“It was not.”
“Then what? What was the point?”
Schneider looked vaguely amused. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
“You know your Bible, Herr Ruck. How quaint.”
“My father was a rector. A good, honest man. Right up until the Nazi bomb exploded in his face and killed him.”
Schneider shrugged. His face was a mask. The skin around his eyes and mouth was drawn so taut there was little room for expression.
He leant forward and said in a low tone, “How familiar are you, Herr Ruck, with Him?” He pointed upwards.
“Of course. God.”
“Well enough to know that He was absent from Buchenwald during your reign.”
“No.” Schneider shook his head emphatically. “That is naïve. What I achieved offered those who believed in His existence the opportunity to leave this world temporarily and look upon the Holy Trinity.”
“You saw God? Through the torture of a human being?”
“A useless eater—not a human being.”
Ruck sat back in his chair, thoughtful. He glanced over at the typist. For the first time, her fingers slipped on the keys. The guards shuffled their feet. Outside, a gust of wind rattled the barn doors—a storm was approaching.”
From reading the synopsis to The Mayfly I knew instantly that this would be the book for me; crime and historical twisted into one story is the perfect genre for me to read and love. I was particularly interested with how the crime would be connected with the Holocaust, and this is the main reason why I just had to get my hands on this book because this era of history fascinates me.
Charlie Priest is our protagonist as an ex-police turned lawyer, a character I haven’t come across before. It surprised me that from being a successful Detective Inspector he decides to reside in a career as a lawyer instead, but as we learn earlier on Priest is troubled and his past is why he is now a lawyer and not a detective. What I find most interesting with Priest is how his skills as a detective, aid him in solving the case as a lawyer. One of the troubles we learn about Priest is his brother being a serial killer, but nonetheless he’s on top of his game in his job and very much someone who is living life for a laugh. I really loved how Priest’s character developed and snippets of his past are brought to light, and I really hope that James Hazel develops this even more in his next novel.
With regards to the plot, it is well researched and the detail was sublime. So much so that I found it quite graphic at times to the point where I was stunned (in a good way might I add). The plot ties in with the events of the Second World War and the Nazis experiments on the “undesirables.” I was however expecting a lot more flashbacks than there were, but we are still given an explanation as to how and why the secret society was born, but a little more development would have been even better.
The Mayfly is very much a fast paced book, a real crime book that keeps you on your toes and biting on your fingernails. My fingers couldn’t turn the pages quick enough. My only quarrel is perhaps the romantic parts that are brought up in the latter half of the book, something I felt wasn’t necessary but that’s perhaps because I’m not used to a crime novel with much romance in them at all. So this could well be personal to my own preferences and not others!
Overall this was a very enjoyable book, and I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the next book in this series. Praise to James Hazel, you kept me guessing to the very end; something that I really appreciate in a crime novel.
Before turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.
He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.
He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.
James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.