The Murder Club by Nikki Crutchley #BookReview #BlogTour


Not all evil, on the surface, is ugly and menacing. It doesn’t always lurk in city centres after dark. It mows your lawns, frequents your local pub, takes its kids to school and contributes to communities.’ 

When the first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck. Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye. Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours. 
The lives of Miller, Cassie and Logan – all affected differently by murder – become entwined as The Scarf Killer, desperate for infamy, and Miller’s attention, makes his mark on the small town.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Murder Club today. Many thanks to Nikki Crutchley and to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

This is the third book I've read by Nikki Crutchley and is a sequel of sorts to her first, Nothing Bad Happens Here which was originally written as a standalone but such was the response to the main character, Miller Hatcher, she's been brought back for another mystery.
I was immediately impressed by the decision to move Miller away from the scene of the previous novel. Although the events in Castle Bay still hang over her, she wasn't from the town and so it feels right that she wouldn't have remained there. The Murder Club can easily be read as a standalone but it's well worth reading the thoroughly enjoyable Nothing Bad Happens Here to have an even better understanding of Miller's story. It soon becomes evident that her journalistic career hasn't progressed as it seemed it would and following an incident which isn't revealed until later in the book, she has been forced to move to another small town and to take a job working on a local newspaper. It's obviously not what she hoped for and while her editor gives her some leeway to write the sort of stories she is interested in, the response from some of the townsfolk to her articles isn't always favourable. 
The murder of a young woman could be the big story she needs but when the killer writes to her, explaining he wants everyone to know him, her involvement suddenly becomes far more chilling. This first murder is described through the eyes of the killer and his actions make it clear that he has planned it methodically. It's also obvious that he will kill again and as the body count rises, Miller dreads receiving the next letter. The sense of fear in the town becomes almost palpable, along with the anger which inevitably develops when people begin to question whether the police are doing enough to catch the murderer.
The identity of the killer is obviously a big part of the plot and in a small town, the list of suspects means it's impossible not to play detective. However, whether or not the reader guesses who did it really doesn't matter because what Nikki Crutchley does so well here is to explore the impact of murders beyond the investigation. The effect on the victims' families is important, of course but the ripples of crime extend beyond just those immediately involved. As with any small community, the grief and anxiety is accompanied by a natural inclination to share suspicions, and to gossip about potential suspects and the victims themselves. It's uncomfortably familiar to see how trial by public opinion means people are quick to determine guilt, even if the evidence isn't there.
Miller's personal involvement exerts a real toll on her but her instinct for a story troubles her too; on the one hand she finds Logan Dodds' obsession with murder and his planned True Crime Tours disturbing but her job means she writes about these crimes and about those who perpetrate them. Is she merely fulfilling her responsibility to the public, who have a right to know the truth, or does writing about murderers give them the notoriety they crave? And what of the victims? As the killer points out later in the novel, their lives - and deaths - are inextricably linked to him. They've become public figures because of him. Yet their stories are important of course and I applaud Nikki Crutchley for her powerful reminder of how such a sudden loss casts a long shadow on those left behind. Cassie's mother went missing when she was still a child and her remains weren't discovered until many years later. When we first meet Cassie she is about to be released from The Oaks Treatment Centre and it's soon obvious that her understandable desire for justice has driven her into a dark place. Perhaps the most striking point about The Murder Club is how people need to feel their lives  - and the lives of their loved ones - matter. 
The storyline is set in the build-up to Christmas and the juxtaposition between the usual festive preparations and the way in which a small town confronts murder in their midst is fascinating, with the atmospheric sense of place as excellent as I've come to expect from this writer. This is a intriguing mystery but it's also a compelling exploration of human behaviour. Tense, gripping and thought-provoking, The Murder Club is an excellent addition to the flourishing Kiwi crime fiction scene.

The Murder Club can be purchased from  Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls. Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and before she turned to crime writing had success in flash fiction. She has been published in 'Bonsai: Best Small Fictions from Aotearoa New Zealand', and 'Fresh Ink' anthologies. Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Her first novel, 'Nothing Bad Happens Here', featuring journalist Miller Hatcher, is set on the Coromandel Coast of New Zealand. It was a finalist in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel. Her second book, 'No One Can Hear You', was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best novel in 2019. ‘The Murder Club’ is the second in the Miller Hatcher series.