Book Review: Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl


When I was browsing the library of books available to read as part of Mystery Thriller Week, this book caught my eye immediately – a serial killer thriller with a clown on the cover – yes, please, I shall read that right away!

Book Description:

The greater the evil, the more deadly the game…

When Emma awakens in total darkness, she is aware of her nakedness. Injuries. A bed not her own. A blindingly bright light suddenly pierces the blackness and a disembodied male voice calls her “Venus”. Venus – the goddess of love, beauty, sex and desire. He says she is “Venus Six”. What does this predator want from her? Can she outwit the masked man who demands to be called “Master”? Or will he be looking for Venus Seven?

Detective Inspector Gravel finds himself floundering when a local nineteen-year-old university student is abducted and imprisoned by a sadistic serial killer who has already tortured and killed at least five young women.

My Thoughts:

Emma has been taken, locked in a room by her abductor, renamed ‘Venus [Six].’ The five blonde-haired girls before her failed and were brutally killed, can DI Gravel and DS Rankin catch this killer, will Emma live up to expectations of her captor – failure equals death.

“Disappoint me one too many times and the last sound you hear will be your own screams.”

I really liked the opening of this book, it was fast-paced and exciting. Not long into the book, the killer is revealed, this did cause the pace to slow down a bit for me but I like when a book takes a direction I wasn’t expecting as it’s a sure way to keep my attention. Towards the end of the book, Nicholl changed the direction again and this made for an ending I very much enjoyed – I believe I may have written a whole new book in my head of what’s to come following that ending! I can say no more without spoilers but this is definitely a fun read, with an ending that makes this book memorable.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters, due to the entertaining nature of this book, that didn’t really matter. There was some banter between the police officers which I enjoyed. The interactions between the killer and Emma were addictive, in the sense that, at any moment he could decide Emma wasn’t the perfect fit in his deluded fantasy and he’d kill her; Emma, in the worse possible situation anyone could be in, thinking fast to stay alive.

The violence is never in your face or gruesome, this was not a particularly dark or chilling read for me, this book is what I’d call a ‘light-hearted’ serial killer thriller. It’s worth mentioning, I read a lot of psychological thrillers, I’m right a home with a serial killer – in the metaphorical sense that is, hmm maybe ‘right at home’ was not the best phrase to use – so my threshold for disturbing/chilling/creepy content is extremely high and so to place a book in the ‘light-hearted’ category does not mean the book is completely without some unsettling, disturbing moments. But rather, this book may appeal to readers outside the genre or may be perfect for readers who don’t like anything too disturbing and chilling from their reads but do want some dark twisted moments that only a killer can deliver.

Overall, I liked this book, I have no reservations recommending it, however, this book wouldn’t immediately spring to mind if someone asked for a recommendation. It’s a good book but it didn’t stand out in the sea of psychological thrillers. If, as mentioned above, you’re looking for a ‘light-hearted’ serial killer thriller, then give this book a read.

*My thanks to the author, John Nicholl, for providing me with a digital copy of this book*

This book is available to buy now from: Amazon UK / Book Depository

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl

  1. I really enjoyed this one too although I wouldn’t call it light-hearted exactly ;-). I loved the surprising ending and the twist in the middle of the novel, when you learn who really isn’t to be trusted! The viewpoint from Emma too was a nice addition and I couldn’t help but wish there was a way out of there… yes I really liked this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol sometimes when I read a thriller, I find it more entertaining, amusing even than I do chilling, I guess it’s a sign of reading so many, I’ve become desensitised to so much 🙈😂. Oh yes, the ending was 👌

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What is it about clowns?? They are effectively creepy for sure. Your review is great, I’m surprised the killer was revealed midway but it sounds like the ending made up for that

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s