Book Review: Willow Walk by SJI Holliday (Banktoun Series, book 2)

Willow Walk by SJI Holliday

Title: Willow Walk (Banktoun Series, Book 2)
Author: SJI Holliday

Publication Date: 10 June 2016
When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run but how can he confront her when she’s pushing him away?
In 2015 I reviewed the first book in the Banktoun Series, Black Wood.  Reading the author’s most recent offering, Violet, reminded me of my intention to read the further two books in the Banktoun trilogy and I have finally caught up with Book 2 – Willow Walk.
One of the joys of a series is getting the opportunity to revisit former settings and catch up with characters we know. In this case, we are re-introduced to Sergeant Davie Gray.  Davie has found happiness with local lass, Marie Bloomfield, and whilst early days, all seems to be going well until Marie gets the feeling that someone is watching her. Is it purely the result of an overactive imagination, or is her past coming back to haunt her…?  Whilst Marie is becoming increasingly distant, Davie is preoccupied by the discovery of a body and the escape of a psychiatric patient from a nearby hospital.
Banktoun is the perfect setting for a thriller, being a small and claustrophobic Scottish town which really adds to the atmosphere and sense of unease that permeates the story. As with all of Holliday’s books, the characters are compelling and believable. Davie is rather straightforward, which is a refreshing change for a main character. Having met him first in Black Wood, the reader gets the opportunity to know him better during this second book. In contrast, Marie certainly has her issues, yet her erratic behaviour makes her an interesting character. However, the person who really fascinated me was Graeme and his letters. I couldn’t decide whether I had any sympathy/empathy for him or not.
Willow Walkis dark, disturbing and utterly compelling. I was hooked from the very first chapter. This is not a book that slowly and gently settles the reader into the tale, but one that hits you from the start and doesn’t let up. It’s fast-paced and tense, and will leave the reader sat on the edge of their seat.
This is a tense and sinister tale, addressing some controversial and relevant themes, including how society addresses mental health problems and also the issue of legal highs. There are twists and turns that make this book completely unputdownable.  A thoroughly entertaining and unnerving blend of crime fiction and psychological thriller, Willow Walk is a great follow-up to book 1 of the Banktoun series.
Whilst the book can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading Black Wood first, as there is some backstory which would be more obvious to the reader if the books are read in the correct order.
I am now very much looking forward to reading the third and final book in the series – The Damselfly.
About the Author
SJI Holliday
SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was published in 2015. She is married and lives in London.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @SJIHolliday
Facebook: @SJIHolliday
Instagram: @susijholliday

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