Thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for The Trophy Taker! Since I am an over achiever, I have an excerpt and a review for you today! Stay tuned because this book was also a #cjsreads pick!
The Trophy Taker by Sarah Flint is the second novel in the DC Charlotte Stafford series. I hadn’t read the first book in this series, which I always worry will be an issue, but I didn’t find that I had an issue navigating Stafford’s backstory or the story of her team. This novel can be read as a standalone.
The novel opens with a particularly vicious serial killer who tortures his victims, removes their hearts from their bodies and takes one of their fingers for his own personal collection. He is a trophy taker. Stafford and her team are baffled by these killings, as the victimology is completely different; there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the killings or how he is choosing his victims. Stafford is forced to press her limits and dig deep to find the perpetrator.
Stafford as a lead character was awesome, I am always a huge fan of anything with a strong, female protagonist and Stafford fit that mold. In fact, I was impressed with how much diversity Flint brought into this police procedural, especially in regards to the secondary storyline with the racial attacks.
My biggest complaint with this novel was how much was actually going on. Besides the main story and the secondary plot, there were, what felt like, one million characters and one million possibilities happening. By the end, when the perpetrator was finally revealed, I had to flick back pages and try to reconnect everything because the number of characters had me confused.
Overall, I did enjoy the plot and feel that any fans of police procedurals will enjoy this real. It’s fast-paced, realistic and had an extremely likeable lead! As you can see from the excerpt below, this one starts with quite the bang! I gave this one 3/5 stars.
32 years ago
The bride looked beautiful that day. ‘Radiant’ was how she was described by all who witnessed her slow glide up the aisle on the arm of her proud father. The church was full, each person straining to catch a glimpse of her gown, the smile she wore, the look on her bridegroom’s face as he turned to take in the totality of her love for him.
His eyes flicked from one to the other, watching for that moment, that second of pure delight. How he hated it. It was the moment when he knew he had finally lost. It was the split-second reinforcement that he was always the one to be overlooked.
The service had started now. He wanted his love to be the impediment to their marriage but he stayed quiet. He heard the words of the vows as they were spoken, wishing they were being made to him. Till death us do part.
She turned towards her new husband and they kissed, their lips sealing his fate. He felt his anger soar. He stared, enraged, as they stayed in their embrace for far too long, her lips now sealing her own fate.
He could feel his heart beating wildly as they pulled apart and smiled into each other’s eyes, blissfully unaware of his wrath. They turned and walked down the aisle, hand in hand, alive with happiness, passing all the joyful people on either side, out, out into the bright sunshine of the day.
He fixed his eyes on her as she left, the way her long, blonde hair cascaded down her back. His heart became calm, numb even, and under his breath he muttered to himself.
‘You ripped my heart out, Susan. One day I’ll have yours.
Wind whipped at the top of the trees, sending the upper branches into a frenzy as he drove slowly towards the rear of the graveyard. He stopped, lowering the window with his gloved hand and breathed in the scent of tiny tornadoes of falling leaves, as they swirled around the edges of the darkened roadway. They smelt wet, musty, earthy; as decaying as the air all around them.
He walked to the rear of the car, grabbed his tool bag and then hoisted her up off the plastic sheeting on to his shoulders, carrying her along the well-worn footway. She was heavier than he had imagined, almost a dead weight.
An ancient lamp post lit his way, its metallic casing rattling harshly, its light wavering and dancing with the breeze. To his left, a row of small blue teddy bears lined the edge of a tiny grave, the words of love on its tombstone starkly illustrating the agony of losing such a young child. Several vases of colourful flowers and toys had blown over, their contents spilling out across the memorial. He saw them and he wanted to restore them to their original positions. The child had done no harm to anyone. It didn’t deserve to die, as she did.
The wind was getting stronger. Tree boughs slapped against high stone tombs, a fox skulked out from behind a copse of elms, standing stationary to sniff at the ripples of air as he had done. Cut flowers tumbled along the pathways, mixing with beloved graveside treasures, until they ended up tossed together and thrown into corners. The wind would mask any sound he might make. It was good.
He continued to walk, struggling to keep her unconscious body hefted high. He was nearly there now. The part of the cemetery to which he was headed was shielded by high hedges on all sides, the hustle and bustle of the city held at bay. Here within the sanctuary of the perimeter walls all sound was muted, all sights guarded; it was perfect for privacy. Perfect to give him time with her, time that he never had before, that he had always wanted. He felt her body twitch slightly; maybe she was coming round.
The moon was nearly full, its light bright, intermittently eclipsed by the movement of the clouds as they scudded across the sky, harried by the wind. The path led up a slight hill to his chosen spot. He turned and checked there was no one in sight, stopping momentarily to admire the contours of London’s iconic landmarks, silhouetted across his eyeline; a fitting backdrop for the act to come. They were all alone. Through the gap in the hedges and they were there.
He heaved her down off his shoulders and laid her across a smooth horizontal tombstone. Her eyes were closed as if in sleep but her muscles twitched involuntarily; she had yet to properly emerge from her comatose state. Quickly he bound her wrists and ankles, and covered her mouth, watching for any further sign of movement. None came.
He leant over, fanning her beautiful hair out across her shoulder blades. It felt soft, silky almost, but shorter now than it had been when they’d first met, when he’d fallen in love with her. He followed the neckline of her blouse down towards her breasts, pale in the partial light, catching a hint of her perfume, flowery and delicate, no doubt chosen by her husband. He breathed it in, letting the scent fan his senses, feeling the familiar pangs of jealousy and injustice stir.
His anger awakened, he bent down and opened the bag. His tools were ready, clean, sterile and sharpened in preparation. He took them out one by one, the stiletto blade, the hunting knife, the rib-cutters, and laid them out across the gravestone. He couldn’t help smiling to himself. She deserved what she was about to get; every second of pain, every moment, reliving how different it could have been.
A strong gust of wind sent a small branch crashing down next to her. She stirred slightly and opened her eyes, blinking back even the faded light from the sky. She was confused, her brow creased as she struggled to comprehend what was happening. Her head turned towards him and she stared into his face, seeing the familiar features but not understanding as yet why she was there. But did she really recognise him? He didn’t know, but he hoped she did because then she might fully appreciate what was to happen.
She tried to shift her body upright but the bindings prevented her easy movement and she was still not yet fully in control of her limbs. She rolled on to her side but he was on to her, his strong muscular frame pinning her easily back against the tombstone. She tried to struggle but her efforts were futile. He climbed astride her, acknowledging his growing desire. He wanted her. He always had and he always would but she had made her choice and if he couldn’t have her, then nor would anyone else.
Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!