Under The Woods by KA Richardson
Looking for a fast-paced crime thriller?
Then you’ll love the gripping Under The Woods.
When a homeless woman, Cheryl Whiffen, hears voices in her head telling her to do bad things, she can’t help but obey.
But when Cheryl becomes the victim of a serial killer who is collecting angels, this time the voices can’t help her. She is deemed not worthy of being an angel and the killer has to find another way to dispose of her body.
TJ Tulley has connections in the police force – her brother Jacob is a digital forensic analyst and her soon to be sister-in-law is a CSI. She knows many of their colleagues so when someone breaks into her house at the riding stables she owns, it’s not a surprise when the police dispatch CSI Jackson Doherty.
Is there a link between a suspicious fire at the stables and the serial killer?
As TJ and Doherty get closer to the truth they don’t realise the danger they are in. He is a killer – he’s angry at their investigation and he’ll do just about anything to protect his angels…
I really admire this authors series and I was on the previous blog tour for Watch You Burn. They are police procedurals with a strong ethos on forensics. This novel is #4 in the forensic files. One thing I also love about the author is the way, in which she creates her characters. They come across authentic and she is not afraid to tackle difficult characters to create. Which in this novel, is the character of Cheryl Whitten a local homeless lady.
The prologue opens from the killer’s perspective, which is creepy and eerie. You almost feel like a voyeur watching a serial killer perfecting his craft. The killer talks of ‘his angels’ and ‘his treasure’ but what he is in fact referring to is society’s throwaway women, he has captured and killed. We become aware he is visiting the burial site of one of his previous victims, a beautiful drug addict turned ‘angel’.
Meanwhile, in Darlington it is the Christmas party for the forensics team. TJ Tulley has been dragged along as her brother Jacob’s designated driver. Jacob is a digital forensic analyst and the party is in full swing. It is at this party that TJ first meets loveable rogue Jackson Docherty. Jackson has an eye for the ladies, shall we say!
We later learn that TJ is the proud owner of Rainbow riding stables in Durham. However, the stables doesn’t come without its downsides. She must deal with local farmer and neighbour from hell Neil Brown. He is a brutish man and regularly openly berates TJ. He is an all-round pain in the backside. But you get a sense it is a simmering tension, waiting to bubble over into violence.
TJ herself has previously been the victim of a violent assault. Which has left her with chronic pain and physical suffering. The man who assaulted her was caught and committed suicide in his prison cell, adding further anguish to TJ’s recovery. Despite the trauma of her attack, TJ sees the positive in life and agrees to allow ‘difficult teens’ to assist at the stables. Which includes her attackers son Matthew. I really admired TJ’s ability to overcome the difficulties she has faced in life.
But I then began to wonder, were they just about to get a whole lot worse. . .
Cheryl Whiffen is a local homeless woman, she hears voices and they torment her every waking hour. When we meet her, she is hungry cold and feeling the strain of life on the streets. Her only friend in the word is a fellow homeless lady named Sally. When Cheryl goes missing, Sally is the only person to notice her absence. Can Sally get the police to take the case seriously?
‘She was definitely not, and never would be, one of his angels’
I think the author has done a fantastic job of her portrayal of not only homeless people, but of mental health conditions and how they manifest. I have worked in adult mental health and in facilitates which have re-homed mentally ill people from the streets. I think what the author did was give them a personality, a background etc. Allow the reader to see them as they truly are, people that matter! People that have lived through horrific life experiences, you hope to never endure.
But back to the case in hand, Jackson is at the scene of a dead body. A male drug addict found in the woods and partially eaten by his own dog.
Is this the killer that lurks amongst the pages?
There are chapters from the killer’s perspectives as he sets his victims tasks, of which they must complete. This element reminded me of the horror movie Saw. It was petrifying yet you couldn’t help but read on!
Especially the parts about the killer’s own childhood!!!!!!!
Farmer Brown’s son goes missing. Jackson faces harassment from an ex-lover named Nicki, who is a total bunny boiler. Someone is watching TJ, casually stalking her every move. Sally struggles to get the police to take Cheryl’s disappearance seriously. This novel is packed with various spin-off stories within.
The characters are authentic, their choices questionable but realistic.
All round this is a fantastic read! 5*
Q) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your current series the forensic files?
A) My name is Kerry and I live in north east England with my husband Peter and our 2 Dogs, Tala and Riley. I used to work as a csi and still work for the police albeit in a different role now. My csi background and passion for forensics is a massive inspiration when it comes to writing. The Forensic Files can be read as a series or as standalones as the characters change in each novel though there is always some overlap. They’re crime novels that are heavy on the forensics and that side of the police investigation.
Q) In my review I talk about the authenticity of your characters. Are they inspired by real-life people? Where do you find your inspiration?
A) The characters are not based on any one person but may well feature traits from a few different people all melded together. I find inspiration in pretty much everything from children’s laughter to rain on the windows, but I do love a good people watching session and often build descriptions whilst sitting in coffee shops. Often an outfit or a pair of shoes seen while doing this may feature in one of my novels.
Q) The character of Cheryl Whitten as a homeless lady with mental health problems, is very accurate. Did you research homelessness or mental health problems?
A) Cheryl was a complex character to write – it did involve research into mental health – primarily multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia – and also homelessness though in my current role for the police I have some interaction with that side of things. I loved her character though – I felt bad for having to kill her off.
Q) The reason I adored the characterisation of Cheryl and Sally so much, was your ability to bring them over on the page as real people. Not a label or a stereotype, but real people with stories behind their eyes. Is this difficult to achieve as a writer?
A) That’s a tough question haha. Most characters come to me screaming loudly to be heard and desperate to tell their stories – I like them to be as real to the reader as they are to me so I get to know them first. I write a character profile for the main characters whether bad or good. This involves things like how I see them, eye colour hair etc, their hobbies, likes/dislikes and friends/enemies etc. Because I get to know them before I start, I feel I get a good handle on them being real to me. And that’s important – I love and live and breathe these characters for the time I write them so if I didn’t know them fully then they might come across as flat or 2-dimensional. This process works for the most part thought there’s always the odd one who throws you a curve ball you don’t see coming – which is also insanely interesting and fab! I love it when they surprise me!
Q) TJ Tulley comes across as a street smart and savvy woman. Yet there is this element of her that is willing to take grief from her neighbour from hell. I found this quite symbolic of how women are often expected to take a certain degree of insulting remarks or insinuations. Was this intentional?
A) Subconsciously perhaps – most of us are willing to take a lot of crap in real life before we stand up and say enough is enough. Not sure exactly why that is but with TJ, it was important to me that she not be a ‘wet lettuce’ kind of woman. She is strong – has gone through so much and still is. I think she balances what’s worth worrying about with what’s not quite well.
Q) The character of Jackson added at times a spin on the above question. As He is expected to put up with a female character infatuated with him. Even though her behaviour becomes more and more irrational. It was an interesting dynamic that draws you to the characters and their histories. What made you decide to give Jackson his stalker?
A) When I first began writing about Jackson in watch you burn, I knew instantly he’d have his own story. He has a one night stand – the first in many months for him which is unusual – he’s trying to settle down and not be a player – Nicki unfortunately didn’t like the idea of a one night stand and is rather persistent. I’ve seen this quite a lot through work – where one party in the relationship just can’t let go or sees it completely different to the other. Jackson needed a challenge to overcome as well as TJ did and I think Nicki was definitely erring on the more Challenging side!
Q) finally, what can we the readers expect from the next book in the series and are we allowed any information?
A) The next book doesn’t have a title yet (sometimes these come straight away and sometimes they reveal themselves a bit later) but it’s set in Edinburgh and feature more of Ali and Alex’s family – specifically his brother Mark who is younger than them. Mark is lovely – he’s buried himself in working as a detective for so long he’s almost forgetting there’s more to life than just work. He’s got some flaws – claustrophobia being one. And he’s not a big believer in things like psychics – until one shows up in his life. It’s about darkness and shadows, murders in the vaults under the city and family dynamics. I’m loving writing it.
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