The Players by Darren O’Sullivan
Kill or be killed – the Host will pick the Players for a game and this will be their choice to make – no other outcome is possible. Karen Holt – a DI – enters the book when she is visiting her therapist after being suspended pending an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Because she is suspended she cannot work on this case but it very quickly gets to her. Can she really avoid getting involved and what will the outcome of that be?
The Players follows Karen and her police partner, Howard, in their attempts to catch and stop the Host from playing future games. With Karen suspended this is not easy on a professional basis. Equally Karen’s wife is not too happy about the risks either. There are twists and turns here and few things are easy. The town’s citizens have growing concerns too.
From the start I found this a tense and edgy read. And it got darker as time went by! I’m not sure that the characters – Karen excepted – were the strongest part of this story. However they played their parts well enough for the tale. I guess the writing really made up for any other shortcomings there though for me. The start was promising and the more I read the harder it was to put this down. There was a feel of the early Arlidge/DI Grace books and I was drawn in completely. There was a growing sense of dread and discomfort about what was happening and what might happen. The ending… I guess it was a bit obvious in some senses but definitely not in others – certainly it wasn’t bad.
I could argue that this is slightly cliched. There is a trouble cop who is suspended who is the key to solving these attacks. That is true and some may see it like that. However most crime stories have some elements in that rationally would not be easy to believe. This one actually works on more than one level as the underlying story is about people’s morality. If anything that made this tale even more disconcerting for me. In the end though I simply found The Players a well paced, tense and troubling read – very good indeed and my 4.5/5 is happily rounded up.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review