Readers first met DI Jack Caffery in the unusual novel Birdman, about a series of ritualistic killings. He next appears in Hayder’s , a genuinely frightening thriller. With Ritual and its follow-up Skin, Hayder has introduced a new character to work alongside Caffery. Police diver Flea (Phoebe) Marley, 26 and skinny, with a head of wild hair and widely spaced blue eyes that make her look even younger.

In Ritual, Flea  finds a severed hand while diving in a dense, muddy area of Bristol’s wharf. When Caffery is called in on the case, it is soon established that the hand belongs to a recently disappeared young man.

As the two search for his abductor, they find themselves poking into Bristol’s dark underworld. A waitress near the dock claims to have seen a young, naked man on the dock the night before the murder. As they investigate the area, filled with drug addiction and street kids prostituting themselves for their next hit, they stumble across a disturbing African ritual which appears to be connected. The plot comes together in swift ripples and more dives for Flea, that are accompanied by hallucinations of her mother calling for her. Both of Flea’s parents died in a freakish diving accident,which adds to her background and to the plot.

Skin features the unlikely twosome once again. Still bothered by hallucinations, Flea is becoming aware that her feelings for Caffery are stretching beyond their professional boundaries.

A decomposed body of a young woman is found near railroad tracks. Initially thought to be a suicide, Caffery doesn’t agree. While he investigates, Flea’s diving in an abandoned quarry brings her close–too close–to a macabre sighting. Or was it narcosis?

And then there’s the matter of Flea’s brother, Thom, a young man under the spell of an older woman, Mandy, who orders him around. As the investigation increases, another young woman goes missing, and Thom’s trouble becomes Flea’s trouble. Where will Caffery stand in all this? Can Flea turn Mandy into a friend instead of a foe?

Hayder’s books are entertaining and haunting, and even with a touch of the macabre in these two, will keep you riveted.

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