Last month (June 2023) I read The Echo Man by Sam Holland, a disturbing novel about a serial killer operating across England who is copying the crimes of the world’s most infamous serial killers, and what a debut novel it was. The first book in the Major Crimes series, it was dark and delicious, tense and terrifying, gory and gruesome and just brilliant. Once I had finished reading it, I had to order the next book in the series, The Twenty (The 20).
The Twenty is the second instalment in the Major Crimes series but is not a sequel. Whilst it is still set in the south of England within the same police force, it features different characters with some overlapping of characters from the first book.
When a body is found on waste ground, DCI Adam Bishop and DS Jamie Hoxton arrive to investigate. But things are about to get a lot worse and a lot more shocking when four other bodies are found on the same dumping site, all with numbers above their bodies! The sequence of numbers indicates a shocking truth, a serial killer is on the loose and they are counting down. A race to find the killer has just begun before the countdown hits zero and twenty bodies stack up.
When the murders are reported by the media, they trigger memories of a traumatic past for Dr Romilly Cole. With her past coming back to haunt her, she is being dragged into a case that she should stay far away from. Especially as it will see her getting involved with Adam Bishop, who she also has history with.
It soon becomes apparent that the truth lies in a decades-old case, and only Romilly holds the key. With the body count going up and the killer heading towards their zero target, the murders get closer to home and more personal, the police are in a race against time to find a very dangerous killer.
Overall, The Twenty is a fantastic book – dark, gritty and brutal! I described The Echo Man as “the most exciting, thrilling and completely brutal novel that I have read so far this year” but I have to say that I think The Twenty is even better, with even more excellent unexpected plot twists.
Some of my favourite readers are M. W. Craven, Chris Carter and Richard Montanari but Sam Holland is right up there with them. The Twenty is dark, gory and gruesome, featuring a unique serial killer that is a crazed sadist.
I love that whilst it isn’t a sequel to The Echo Man, it is still based in the Major Crimes Unit and characters do overlap, with cameos from DCI Cara Elliott among others, although sadly the tough and gruff Nate Griffin doesn’t feature.
The story doesn’t just focus on murder and the hunt for a killer, the characters and their backstories are excellent – especially how the lives of the main characters all intertwine with underlying issues and tensions bringing the characters to life. Their relationships simmer away in the background building a narrative that brings the story together nicely.
It is superbly composed and well-written, packed with enough tension, suspense and thrills in just the right places and plot twists that, I at least, didn’t see coming.
The Twenty by Sam Holland is a dark, gory, gruesome, very twisted and shocking but gripping and sublime macabre story. With themes of kidnapping, abuse, torture and brutal murder it might not be for everyone, but I loved it! An excellent thrilling novel that will keep you awake all night – partly due to the rising body count and the violent and intense murders and partly because you just won’t be able to put the book down, the desire to find out what happens next is strong and compelling. A thrilling roller-coaster of a novel.
A compelling and thrilling read.
RRP: £16.99 (Hardback) / £7.99 (Kindle)