Deadly Animals; new, heart wrenching crime fiction

Deadly Animals is unique and shocking. It boldly stands out from all other crime novels. Set in inner city Birmingham in the early 80s, it really captures the grit of British working class life at the time. For me as a reader I found this very appealing. Yet it is also a dark, emotionally charged story that cleverly touches on horror. Normally I’m not a big fan of horror, but in this case, the horror element powerfully enhances the raw emotion of the story.

This unique novel is written by Birmingham born Marie Tierney, a fresh new voice in the crime genre. It is centred around Ava, an extraordinary 13 year-old. Ava has a very rare (and to read as an adult, very worrying) hobby – she ventures out in the middle of the night, collects roadkill and fastidiously studies the decomposition of the dead animals. Yes, Ava has a strange, macabre obsession, but she is also warm, loyal, extremely intelligent, and the true heroine of the novel.

A 13 year-old venturing out alone in the middle of the night made me feel extremely uneasy, especially as Ava accidently discovers the dead body of a boy she knows. Mickey’s body has been hidden away, and it is clear to Ava that he has been murdered.

Knowing that she won’t be taken seriously by adults, Ava reports her horrifying discovery to the police by calling them from a phone box disguising her voice as ‘Mrs Poshy Snob.’ This voice fools the majority of the local police force, except DI Seth Delahaye, the officer put in charge of the murder case. Delahaye first encounters Ava during the initial door-to-door enquiries a few hours after the discovery of Mickey’s body. He is immediately impressed by the 13 year-old.

I really like DI Delahaye as a character. In my view he is very different to the stereotypical depiction of a male police officer in the 1980s. He is warm, possesses a great deal of empathy, and develops a great respect for Ava.

Delahaye soon realises he has been given the most challenging case of his career, which becomes even more frightening when a local six year-old boy goes missing. To all in the local community, especially Ava, it is clear that a child serial killer is on the loose.

I did work out this unique who dunnit, which I have to admit I was a tad disappointed by. However Deadly Animals did take a very unexpected turn which I found very emotional and thought provoking. This is one of the reasons why this debut novel is so heart wrenching.

I am looking forward to reading more from Marie Tierney. I do hope she continues to develop Ava and Delahaye’s unique relationship in future novels. In Deadly Animals I feel Marie Tierney planted intriguing seeds about these characters that as a reader I am keen to explore further.

Deadly Animals was released in hardback on 15 February 2024. Thank you Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me to the blog tour of this emotionally charged novel. Thank you also to Zaffre Books and NetGalley for my advance copy.

To follow the blog tour, please see below.

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