DCI Holly Craig has a gift and a curse. On the one hand, her ability to sense the darkness inside people can make her job as a detective a little easier. She knows when people are lying. The problem is that she can never turn it off and, consequently, can’t really trust anyone. In Ragged Alice, Gareth L. Powell, Holly and her gift/curse return to the Welsh town of Pontyrhudd to escape a case gone wrong in London. As soon as she arrives, people start dying and Holly has to wonder if she made the wrong decision.
Ragged Alice is one of the fastest reads I think I’ve ever read. It clocks in at 208 pages, but I was done in less than two hours. Reading this book was almost like watching a TV show because the plot races along so quickly. It’s not even two days before one body turns into three, then more people are killed. With the exception of the first victim, the bodies are left in a terrifying state. This book is filled not so much with red herrings as it is with a blizzard of information as Holly and her detective sergeant Scott Fowler turn the town of Pontyrhudd inside out. Not only is there physical evidence and witness statements, Holly also has supernatural clues to deal with.
Because Ragged Alice is such a fast read, it sacrificed character development for everyone except for Holly. The mayor is a stereotype of a lecherous incumbent. The reporters are ciphers. The only characters that rise above the scrum of suspects, bystanders, and potential victims are the ones who have gifts similar to Holly’s. Mrs. Phillips is the best of these and I would have loved it if the book had been narrated from her perspective. The other thing that gets sacrificed in the rush to the end of the book is a strong conclusion. The ending of this book ties up the plot, but it’s more of a sparkler than a firework.
All that said, Ragged Alice was an interesting read because of its supernatural elements. I would have liked more of an exploration of them, but this book never slows down enough to explore much of anything. Readers who are looking for a quick, cinematic read might enjoy Ragged Alice. Readers who prefer more psychological depth or more fantasy in their mysteries should probably give this one a miss.