Book Review: Imposter

Imposter is the first book in a new trilogy that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. This crime thriller splits its time between a murder scene in picturesque County Mayo, and the Southmoor High Security Psychiatric Hospital in south London. I had such high hopes …

mystery | thriller | crime

Rating: 3 out of 5.

the blurb

There’s a killer inside all of us…

After an elite criminal profiling unit is shut down amidst a storm of scandal and mismanagement, only one person emerges unscathed. Forensic psychologist Doctor Alexander Gregory has a reputation for being able to step inside the darkest minds to uncover whatever secrets lie hidden there and, soon enough, he finds himself drawn into the murky world of murder investigation.

In the beautiful hills of County Mayo, Ireland, a killer is on the loose. Panic has a stranglehold on its rural community and the Garda are running out of time. Gregory has sworn to follow a quiet life but, when the call comes, can he refuse to help their desperate search for justice?

Murder and mystery are peppered with dark humour in this fast-paced thriller set amidst the spectacular Irish landscape.

Author LJ Ross | Published in October 2019 | 311 Pages (kindle)

my thoughts

Imposter gets off to a very promising start with a prologue that’s dripping with foreboding.  As I was reading it, I mentally patted myself on the back for choosing this thriller from my out-of-control reading list.  My sense of self congratulation continued into chapter one … a chilling murder rips the heart out of a lovely young family living in the small, picturesque town of Ballyfinny in County Mayo.  Ballyfinny is such a close-knit community that the murder sends ripples of shock and outrage throughout the town’s residents.

Dr Alex Gregory is a lauded psychologist who treats some of the country’s most dangerous and disturbed offenders at Southmoor High Security Psychiatric Hospital.  He is the protégé of the eminent academic and clinical psychologist, Professor Douglas Williams, and together the two men had established an ill-fated criminal profiling service for detectives.  Its demise didn’t shower them in glory, so when the professor asks Gregory to assist the officers in Ballyfinny, the younger doctor is initially reluctant. But the details of the case prove to be irresistible …

Alex arrives in Ireland to find himself welcomed by few, and distrusted by many, making for a fractious start to his investigation.  It was the town’s mayor, Maggie Byrne, who initially requested his assistance, and Alex is rather surprised to learn he’ll be working alongside Connor and Niall Byrne, two Garda brothers leading the investigation … who are also Maggie’s sons. Oh, and he will be staying in Maggie’s brother’s hotel for the duration.  So, as I said, it’s a small, close-knit town.  

After the initial adrenaline boost of the first few chapters, however, I found the story started to lose traction and pace disappointingly quickly. I couldn’t really gel with any of the characters (except perhaps the indomitable Maggie), although I really felt Dr Alex Gregory had great, unrealised potential.  I can’t put my finger on the moment where my attention started to wane, but at many points in the story I felt like I’d missed a previous book … why? because Dr Gregory’s character is written with rather a lot of dark, shadowy secrets of his own.  They’re unrelated to the case in Ireland, but they spill over into the story with enough frequency to become a distraction rather than an intrigue.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I love a character with layers and a bit of mystery, but I felt like this technique had been rather over-used by author.

The book’s timeline – apart from the prologue – is sequential, although the locations alternate between Ballyfinny and the secure hospital in London, as Dr Gregory splits his time between the murder case and treatment of his own patients.  One of these patients is Cathy Jones, a dangerous and manipulative child killer who’s been in the unit for over 30 years.  Cathy’s character adds a welcome dash of the chills to this book, and I would’ve been pleased to encounter her more often.  In stark contrast, the Ballyfinny murderer’s passages feel a little clumsy … to keep the reader guessing on the gender of the murderer, the author narrates these scenes in the first person using ‘they’:  ‘they could feel his eyes sweeping around the church’, ‘at first they’d been afraid’, ‘they made a careful note of the time’. I understand what the author was hoping to achieve with this approach, but it didn’t translate too well for my reading experience. 

As the book drew closer to its conclusion, certain outcomes seemed inevitable … although I hadn’t guessed who the Ballyfinny killer was until the big reveal.  Imposter is the first in a trilogy featuring Dr Gregory, but I’m sorry to say I won’t take my reading of this series any further.

Imposter by LJ Ross

People Like Us is available now from Amazon in paperback, kindle and audiobook formats.

about Louise

LJ Ross is an international bestselling author, best known for creating atmospheric mystery and thriller novels, including the DCI Ryan series of Northumbrian murder mysteries which have sold over five million copies worldwide.

Louise was born in Northumberland, England. She studied undergraduate and postgraduate Law at King’s College, University of London and then abroad in Paris and Florence. She spent much of her working life in London, where she was a lawyer for a number of years until taking the decision to change career and pursue her dream to write. Now, she writes full-time and lives with her husband and son in Northumberland, where she enjoys reading all manner of books, travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Louise is a keen philanthropist, and is pleased to have supported numerous non-profit programmes in addition to founding several of her own, including the Lindisfarne Reading Challenge and the Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Fiction. To find out more, or to make an application, see the ‘Philanthropy’ area of her website (link below).

You can connect with Louise on her website | Twitter | GoodReads | Amazon

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