Hear Her Scream by Dylan H Jones

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Welsh author Dylan H Jones is an internet bestseller with his Detective Tudor Manx series, set on the island of Ynys Mon – AKA Anglesey – in North Wales. His debut novel, Anglesey Blue, hit Amazon’s top spot in Welsh crime fiction on its first day of release in 2017. As we’ve been saying, dragon noir is becoming a thing with crime readers. However, Jones now lives and writes in the United States and his first stateside thriller, What Follows, was published in 2021 and set in Oakland, California. The Golden State is the setting again in Hear Her Scream, his new chilling thriller.

There’s a depraved killer on the loose and we meet him on the first page stalking his latest victim in Mexico. Only his crimes are not just about his own perverse kicks. Once he’s selected a victim he then murders them in front of the camera, streaming the video online to whomever bids the highest via the Dark Web and untraceable Bitcoin transactions. So Cyrus Booth has been stalking Alison Jackman both on the streets of Mexico City and via her @AliJack Instagram account.

Booth knows that she is alone and vulnerable and lures Alison into a taxi, but things don’t go to plan and everything is not as it seems. Nonetheless, he’s still on the loose, heading back to the States and as dangerous as ever.

In California, Valencia Basco is investigating the murder of Jodi Connelly. She is a researcher for Cast Media and they sell true crime podcasts to the networks. Valencia thinks the man now serving life in Solano prison for Jodi’s murder is innocent.

This isn’t just any case. Jodi was Valencia’s best friend and they were staying in Camp Grizzly, Yosemite National Park, when it happened seven years ago. It was Valencia who found the body. There’s a lot about that night that remains a mystery but Clyde Domingo, who worked at the campsite, was arrested and convicted. Is it coincidence that he’s from one of the First Nations, or a symptom of racism?

While Cyrus continues to fulfil his own twisted fantasies and those of his customers, Valencia returns to the scene of Jodi’s murder to interview the witnesses and see if she can finally piece together the events of that terrible night and find out for sure, one way or the other, about Domingo’s guilt or innocence.

What we discover is that Cyrus has more than a passing interest in this case. He is increasingly troubled about what Valencia may uncover. Add to the mix a land dispute between the Domingo family and the local casino owner and a sect, the Rebel Angels led by a man known as Mentor, who have a hold over Cyrus, and Jodi’s death might be connected to something more wide reaching than a simple but brutal sex murder. 

You need to pay close attention to the opening of the novel as it surfs between characters and the marginal community settings, which takes a bit of getting used to. Drugs, pool parties and motels in California, backstreets and a one-star hotel in Mexico. Then the narrative settles into a steady rhythm and the connections between the storylines tie things up neatly by the denouement. 

There’s a little surprise kicker at the end of the novel but otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward serial killer thriller, intentionally so. Figuring out who did it is laid out for us but we have to wait much longer for the why and the how. The big strength of the narrative is Valencia and her search for the truth. She’s determined to get answers even though no one else will listen to the idea that the wrong man is in prison. We get a sense of how haunted she is by the tragedy that hangs over her life unless she can discover the truth. Having more than one strand and possible motive to the story makes for a more interesting read than just the manhunt, though the cat and mouse is intriguing.

Hear Her Scream is a decent take on the thriller killer archetype with a few interesting kinks. It’s a quick read, perfect for your commute, but doesn’t quite offer the depth of a more layered mystery.

Lume Books
Print/Kindle
£1.99

CFL Rating: 3 Stars

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