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Christmas with The Conduit by Wes Markin.

A DCI Michael Yorke Thriller

Publisher: Dark Heart Publishing 15th December 2020

ASIN: B086MK51JF

I’ve never read Wes Markin before and what a way to start. This is book 6 in the DCI Michael Yorke series and what an introduction! This author is certainly not for the faint hearted and this isn’t a cosy Christmas murder mystery. For this final instalment an old foe reappears at Christmas, tearing Yorke away from his family and bringing him closer to finding a lost friend and colleague.

If you fail to stop a killer, then they will only grow stronger.

DCI Michael Yorke and Emma Gardner are still plagued by guilt over their failure to catch the murderous psychiatrist known as the Conduit, and the loss of their former colleague to insanity. On Christmas Day, following a brutal massacre in Leeds, Yorke and Gardner find themselves once again chasing the ruthless puppeteer, believing that they have the initiative. But as the two investigators draw closer to the Conduit, they quickly discover that they were never truly in control, and completely vulnerable to what comes next. A rising tide of psychological warfare and the horrendous truth behind the fate of their former colleague.

I wonder, considering I’m a therapist, whether I should worry about the amount of books I’ve read recently featuring murderous psychologists/psychiatrists! I choose to think it’s a literary representation of the fear people often have about therapists – what we might magically discern about someone and how terrified they are about facing their fears. This particular sociopath is terrifying, but hides behind the tweedy and beardy disguise of a psychology lecturer. However, behind the new identity, lies the same twisted philosophy. The Conduit believes he can ‘heal’ psychological trauma by using hypnotherapy to take the patient back to the moment of trauma and changing the narrative. Yet the narrative is changed to something destructive and violent, shattering the psyche and planting the darkest rage, paranoia and thoughts of revenge.

The opening is Christmas Day at a nursing home for elderly people in Leeds, where Bernard is looking forward to spending the day with the new lady in his life. He’s been incredibly lonely since his wife died and he is grateful to find love again so late in life. Bernard struggles with PTSD following active service in the Falklands War, where both his friends were shot and killed in front of him. Every so often, loud noises or voices can take him straight back to the battlefield and the chaos of war. On this day, as his fellow residents start gathering for lunch, he receives a text message. From there it’s as if a switch has been thrown in his brain and his fellow residents and nursing staff become the Argentinian soldiers he faced that day back in the 1980s. He collects and gun from his room, makes his way back to the dining room and starts to gun down the soldiers who killed his friends and have come back for him. It’s only after multiple fatalities that Bernard returns and sees the full horror of what he’s done. He doesn’t link it to the genial man with the beard he’s been running into on his daily walk in the park. The man who offered to help with his trauma, if Bernard would trust him and open his mind to him. With no other choice, Bernard turns the gun on himself.

This terrible act drags DCI Yorke away from his family; his patient wife is understanding but he worries about how long this might last. He’s already had one shock this morning, his adopted teenage son has announced his engagement and Yorke isn’t sure he was supportive enough. He also has his previous colleague, Emma Gardener, on his coat tails. She believes Leeds is where her partner Mark Topham is, on the run since his violent reaction to the murder of his partner. Can Yorke really take her with him, when she’s no longer a police officer? Will they be able to unmask The Conduit before he takes over another mind and shatters even more lives? There is also the subplot – a female prisoner, victim and conspirator of The Conduit, having sessions with a prison psychiatrist. A game of cat and mouse seems to ensue between them, that becomes very dark and twisted.

The writing has an addictive energy within it, that means you can’t put it down, even when the horror you’re witnessing is too much. I would definitely suggest trigger warnings for violence and sexual violence. Sometimes, it’s not easy to read. Yet you can’t look away. The author is incredibly skilled at building up tension and it becomes unbearable towards the end. There are so many twists – I thought he’d be caught any minute, then he would elude them again. The way The Conduit burrows into people’s minds and unearths their greatest trauma is very disturbing. These people really have endured terrible experiences and watching this man re-traumatise them made me so angry. I was also horrified by the treatment and horrifying truth of his loyal dog. Yet I did find myself enjoying it. If you have met DCI Yorke before, I’m sure you’ll have been waiting for this novel. If not, this novel stands alone well, but why not look out for the whole series. But be prepared to read them all in one go because you won’t be able to stop once you’ve started! If you like your thrillers darker than dark, and your heroes and heroines battle scarred but steadfast and determined, then this is the perfect book for you.

Author:

Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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