The mutilated body of a man is found in a London churchyard. His hands are missing and then DCI Grant Foster also discovers some numbers and a letter scratched onto the body. The police team have no idea what this means until DS Heather Jenkins suggests it might be the index number required when certificates are ordered for tracing your family history. Her mother traced hers recently and it reminds her of that. They contact the researcher her mother used, Nigel Barnes, and he and the team set about investigating at various archives.
Another murder is committed with the same thing scratched onto the body and then it's discovered that a tramp who died before all this started was also a victim of what appears to be a serial killer. But what is it all about? Through some patient research Barnes discovers a link with five murders back in 1879. Are these copy-cat killings? There has to be a reason that someone is doing this. And the most pressing question, who will be the next to die? Can the team solve the riddle in time to save the lives of two more potential victims?
Reading this book was quite like watching an episode of the family history TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?, which is appropriate as Dan Waddell wrote a book of that title, presumably connected to the TV programme. I'm a great fan of the programme so that was fine by me, I found everything about the plot fascinating and and couldn't put the book down.
At first I wasn't sure if it was suitable for R.I.P. but then the connection with some very macabre killings in Victorian times appeared and I realised it very much was. Most of the book takes part in the present day but there are occasional flash-backs which are atmospheric and creepy and very well done. The author clearly knows London very well and as he almost takes you on a tour of the city's streets, not only as they are now as but they once were.
I loved all the family history stuff. Some might find all the details of the research a little tedious but to me it was fascinating. I had no idea that some of these archives are so popular and busy and that arguments break out over books of records. Genealogy is obviously a really popular pastime now!
Character-wise I suppose I found the book 'so-so'. Maybe the author could have delved a little deeper. We're given some background information about the various investigating officers and Nigel Barnes but it was a trifle sketchy. But then this is a book about a series of horrifying murders and as such it's appropriate really that the author concentrated on that. Plus there is another book - and maybe more after that, I don't know - so presumably we'll find out more as the books progress.
I own the second book, Blood Atonement, and will certainly be reading that at some stage. Book one was an easy, quick read, well plotted - I didn't guess the culprit until near the end when it became obvious - and is what one would term 'a real pageturner'... perfect for R.I.P.