Blood Rites by David Stuart Davies @DStuartDavies #BlogTour #BookReview

Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. DI Paul Snow has a personal secret. He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police force of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Blood Rites today. My grateful thanks to the author, publishers and Abby Fairbrother for inviting me to take part and for my advance copy of the book.

Blood Rites has an unusual opening -it starts with the ending; a man returns home, it's December and he's annoyed to discover he'd forgotten to set the central heating timing. So far, so normal yet his movements very soon become much more sinister, it would appear he's just murdered somebody. It seems that this latest victim wasn't his intended choice but he considered it necessary to kill them in order to continue his terrifying sounding blood rites...
The action then goes back three months and we meet DI Paul Snow, a dedicated police officer who is slightly detached from the other officers and clearly keeps himself to himself. The reason for that soon becomes clear, as although he is dating local head mistress, Matilda, he is not being true to her or to himself. His relationship with Matilda has reached a crossroads, she is expecting them to become more intimate but Paul has not had sex for years. He knows he would have no chance of climbing the career ladder if his homosexuality became common knowledge and so he has been celibate at least a decade. Blood Rites really has two plots that intertwine; one is a police procedural as Paul Stone investigates a spate of murders and attempts to discover who the serial killer is; the concurrent plot is a domestic drama about Paul's inner turmoil - should he try to make a relationship with a woman work despite knowing he isn't sexually attracted to her? He enjoys her company, particularly after living a lonely existence for so long. Would such a relationship be fair to either of them though? And what will happen when he finds himself attracted to a man?
There is an episodic feeling to the crime aspect of the story. We learn that the murderer was a victim of crime himself at first and is then inspired to embark on his murderous spree. As he commits each new murder it is interesting to consider the dilemma between justice and vigilantism. I actually guessed the perpetrator fairly early on but Stone's painstaking investigation is still a gripping read. Blood Rites is set in the 1985, so without the scientific advancements available today, Stone has to mostly rely on his hunches and logic to solve the case. The era is also important when it comes to understanding Paul's torment. Even in the 1980s, attitudes to homosexuality were still often in the dark ages, whether outright bigotry or the more insidious institutionalised homophobia that meant many people like Paul were forced to live a lie in order to protect themselves. It seems shocking now of course but having grown up in that decade I remember the way gay men were portrayed as effeminate jokes in TV shows, the furore over gay kisses in soaps, the cruel tabloid exposés... As the quote in the foreword from John Fraser states,
'Homosexuals then had three choices.

One. To conform to society's expectations. To marry and have children.

Two. To be celibate.

Three. To live a double life, fraught with danger - of violence or blackmail - and to live it alone.'

As Stone's personal life starts to unravel he seeks solace in his work and eventually makes an important discovery. I suspect the shocking ending will be divisive and some people will be left disappointed, it's certainly not what I expected but actually I really appreciated reading such a memorable conclusion. Blood Rites is the third Paul Stone novel but it's my first and I didn't feel I missed out having not read the previous books. The empathetic characterisation and well-crafted plot complement each other beautifully to create a compelling and poignant story that really touched me and I look forward to reading more from David Stuart Davies in the future.

Blood Rites is published by Urbane Books and can be purchased here. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour.

.About the Author

David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.
David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and Sherlock Holmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.
He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’
David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.
Twitter: @DStuartDavies
Via Urbane: