Title: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the author of the acclaimed suspense novels Creep and Freak and whom Jeffery Deaver has praised as a “top of the line thriller writer,” The Butcher is a high-octane novel about lethal secrets that refuse to die—until they kill again.
A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous “Beacon Hill Butcher” was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985. Now, some thirty years later, Shank, retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise.
Settling back into his childhood home and doing some renovations in the backyard to make the house feel like his own, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaurateur, stumbles upon a locked crate he’s never seen before. Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him… Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.
Meanwhile Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, has always suspected that her mother was murdered by the Beacon Hill Butcher—two years after the supposed Butcher was gunned down. As she pursues leads that will prove her right, Sam heads right into the path of Matt’s terrible secret.
A thriller with taut, fast-paced suspense, and twists around every corner, The Butcher will keep you guessing until the bitter, bloody end.
The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier is a page turning mystery that is engaging and quite fascinating. While it is not a typical “whodunnit” since the killer’s identity is revealed very early on, it is nonetheless a compelling novel that I recommend to fans of the genre.
Retired police chief Edward Shank made his career off the infamous Beacon Hill Butcher case and although the murderer was gunned down before he could stand trial, there are few who doubt he was indeed the killer. However, nearly thirty years later, Shank’s grandson Matthew makes a chilling discovery that could exonerate the dead man, but revealing the truth would mean destroying everything Matt has worked so hard to achieve.
Matt’s girlfriend, Samantha, is one of the few people who believe the police accused the wrong man in the original Butcher case and as an author of true crime novels, she has been investigating the old case. Samantha has a personal stake in her current work in progress since she is convinced The Butcher is responsible for her mother’s (unsolved) murder two years after the suspect’s death. It appears Sam might be on to something when murders in the present bear startling similarities to those old cases and no one is more stunned than Sam when the killer’s identity is finally uncovered.
A jaw-dropping revelation in the first chapter is the first of many clues that the killer is a stone-cold psychopath. Absolutely no remorse or second thoughts plague the murderer and in fact, a new murder marks the beginning of a series of grisly and vicious killings. Since there is little suspense as to the murderer’s identity, The Butcher focuses on Sam’s investigation, Matt’s disintegration after he unearths the family’s secrets and ultimately, the motivations for the murders, both past and present.
The characters are reasonably well-developed but they are not particularly sympathetic or easy to like. Edward features predominantly throughout the story and he is definitely not a warm and loving grandfatherly figure nor is he the typical police officer. He is cold and calculating and the peeks into his psyche reveal the depths of his depravity. Matt is self-absorbed and highly driven to succeed. He has some of his grandfather’s traits and this adds an interesting nature vs. nurture element to the story. Sam is the most likable character but it is frustrating to watch her stay with Matt despite how little effort he puts into their three year relationship.
Jennifer Hillier easily draws the reader into this character-driven story with an unusual plot and a cast of diverse characters. Although a little slow paced in the beginning, it quickly picks up steam and hurtles to an unexpected and rather dramatic conclusion. While it is not an action packed thriller, The Butcher is a riveting novel that stands out from other books in the mystery genre.