Review: The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson

Review: The Binding Room by Nadine MathesonThe Binding Room (Inspector Anjelica Henley, #2) by Nadine Matheson
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Inspector Anjelica Henley #2
Pages: 512
Published by Hanover Square Press on July 12, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Detective Anjelica Henley confronts a series of ritualistic murders in this heart-pounding thriller about race, power and the corrupt institutions that threaten us
When Detective Anjelica Henley is called to investigate the murder of a popular preacher in his own church, she discovers a second victim, tortured and tied to a bed in an upstairs room. He is alive, but barely, and his body shows signs of a dark religious ritual.
With a revolving list of suspects and the media spotlight firmly on her, Henley is left with more questions than answers as she attempts to untangle both crimes. But when another body appears, the case takes on a new urgency. Unless she can apprehend the killer, the next victim may just be Henley herself.
Drawing on her experiences as a criminal attorney, Nadine Matheson deftly explores issues of race, class and justice through an action-packed story that will hold you captive until the last terrifying page.

My Review:

This case is gruesome, Henley and her team are flailing around in the pitch dark, and someone might seriously be eaten by an actual grue before it’s finally wrapped up. There are plenty of other disgusting, creepy, crawly things eating plenty of the bodies, so a grue isn’t all that far outside the realms of terrible possibility this time around.

And it’s utterly riveting. So as much as the reader is creeped out and chilled to the bone, it’s impossible to turn one’s eyes away. No matter how much the stomach turns.

We first met DI Anjelica Henley in The Jigsaw Man, another heart-stopping, gruesome thriller where Henley and her team were both the investigators in a serial killer case AND potential victims.

It’s not a surprise that the aftermath of that case left them all with PTSD flashbacks. Nor it is a surprise that nearly all of their personal lives – which weren’t all that stable to begin with – seem to be in even more of a shambles.

Henley’s marriage is hanging by a thread, as is her ability to do her job. There’s too much grief and anger in her not-so-distant past and she can’t seem to let it out or find any closure for it – no matter how many sessions she attends with a therapist who keeps calling her on her bullshit. Of which there is rather a lot.

But it’s the case that draws the reader in, and sticks in both the mind and the queasy belly long after you turn the final page. If it is final – something I’m still wondering about.

It starts with a body. The dead body of a self-ordained preacher in the office of his more than a bit shady megachurch. But the thing that really kicks off this case is that the preacher’s body isn’t the only body in the church. As the cops sweep the building looking for clues, Henley discovers a locked room hidden inside a bland meeting room, and inside that room there’s another body. A body that’s clearly been starved for weeks and tortured before, during and after whatever else happened in that room.

And it’s somehow still alive – in spite of it’s ghastly appearance. But what’s it doing there? And how, by all that is or isn’t holy in that supposed house of worship, did it get into that room and why is it there in the first place?

Caleb Annan – known to his worshipful congregation as Annan the Prophet – is dead. When Henley starts digging into his life, she discovers plenty of reasons why someone might have wanted to kill the bastard, starting with his wife. But nothing explains what that battered young man was doing bound to a bed and locked into that torture cell.

But the closer that Henley gets to the answer, the more bodies that investigation uncovers. And the more pitch dark and gruesome the story gets. Until the scab is finally pulled all the way off and the maggots crawl out.

Escape Rating A: I can’t use words like “enjoy” when talking about the reading of The Binding Room, because this doesn’t feel like the kind of story one enjoys – or at least that I enjoy. It’s the kind of story that has me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, holding down my gorge and making sure all the lights are on. It’s compelling in the way that does not let the reader turn their eyes away because what it at its heart is a display of the many brutal ways in which human beings seriously suck and are entirely too capable of committing terrible evil in the name of the so-called “greater good”.

There are two cases here. The first, and the one that the powers that be would much prefer be the more prominent case, is the murder of Caleb Annan. That’s partly because he appears to be a pillar of the community and more than a bit because no matter what it seems like he was hiding – and he most definitely was hiding a whole lot – it’s a relatively straightforward case.

And there are the optics of the case, that Caleb was a black man, while the barely alive John Doe who was found hidden in the church is white. It seems like the press would rather follow the case of a missing white man rather than a dead black man – and there are plenty of political hacks willing to ride that angle as far as it will get them.

There’s also the problem that the more Henley discovers about that preacher, the less that any of the cops are able to see him as the victim of a crime. If he weren’t already dead, they’d be prosecuting his ass for everything they could get.

The other thing that hides under that surface is that the case of John Doe is a murky monster concealed under a whole lot of oozing muck. He’s not been reported missing, he has no identification, he was clearly tortured, and no one seems to be looking for him. And while he may have been found alone in that room, the more Henley digs the more she realizes that he was not the only victim of something so vile that no one wants to examine it closely. Or at all.

But she has no choice but to keep turning over rocks to see just how much slime crawls out.

That in the middle of all this her life and her marriage are still falling apart just adds to the ratcheting sense of danger and threat all the way around.

The Binding Room is a story to be read with all the lights on – and possibly a comfort animal or two or ten cuddled around. Because it’s not really about that simple murder. It’s a case about the evil that men and women do and it gets under the reader’s skin and just oozes and you can’t stop wanting to scratch it away.

It’s clear from the way that The Binding Room concludes that this will not be the final case for DI Anjelica Henley and the Serial Crimes Unit. Whenever the next book in the series comes out, I know I’m going to feel compelled to read it – and very possibly in one sitting as I did this one. Because I expect it to be another riveting, edge-of-the-seat, stomach churning read.

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