As much as I have enjoyed Steve Mosby's books in recent years, I always have a slight sense of foreboding when I pick up a new one. There's nothing easy about reading his work as his mission seems to be to take the reader to dark, unforgiving places.
Still Bleeding, his fifth novel, does not disappoint - if this is the right word. It is another tough journey into the dark side of the human condition where morality and decency give way to nihilism and unrelenting pain.
As I have observed in previous reviews (The 50-50 Killer and Cry for Help) there is something slightly off-beam about Mosby's story-telling, a determination not to be bound by convention or to allow the writer to ease into a comfortable narrative that adds another layer of uneasiness to the stories. The world as he describes it sounds and feels like the world outside of your window, but it is a world that is just half a degree removed from reality. You know it is somewhere you do not want to visit, under any circumstances, but equally that you know you could easily stray into.
Still Bleeding focuses on the efforts of two men to find missing women. Alex Connor returns from a self-imposed exile that followed the suicide of his wife after he learns that his once best friend Sarah Pepper has apparently been murdered by Connor's brother, although police have not found the corpse that was supposedly dumped in a field. Meanwhile Detective Paul Kearney is searching for Rebecca Wingate, a woman missing from her home and who is believed to be in terrible danger from a killer who slowly bleeds his victims to death.
Their twin investigations, which never quite become linked, take the two men into a moral hinterland whose inhabitants treat death as nothing more than a spectator sport, as ripe for exploitation as any other, and where the internet is a vital enabling tool. What they find is both disturbing and dangerous and both men are sucked into a dark vortex where first their sanity and then their lives are placed at risk.
Mosby is a fine writer who handles his material expertly and has a knack for making stories personal, which means he manages to crawl under the skin and stay there. Still Reading is another top outing, confirming not only that he is on a great run but also that he is one of UK fiction's most original writers.