Author of the Month

Name: David Fennell

First Novel: Sleeper (as J.D. Fennell)

Most Recent Book: The Art of Death

'Fennell wastes no time getting into his stride.'

Three glass cabinets appear in London's Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.

The cabinets are traced to @nonymous - an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.

Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.

As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn't know is that the killer is watching their every move - and he has his sights firmly set on her. He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

Fennell wastes no time getting into his stride. From the get-go we have an innocent café scene, friends and family catching up over coffee (remember those days?) and people on their way to work fetching a coffee to go on their way to the office. Where is the menace in that, I hear you ask? But someone is watching particular people in this café, folks he has been communicating with for some time. This person has inveigled their way into these people’s lives, their hopes of friendship or even romance could finally be on the cards. But as we all know, there are many ways people can hide their true persona online. All these people will become part of a sick art installation placed in prominent parts of London.

We also find that DI Grace Archer is in the café, so close to the killer known as @nonymous – a killer who is going to cause her such trauma over the next few days. Archer comes with her own personal history of grief: a father killed in the line of duty and a grandfather she adores but is slowly losing his grip on reality. Archer also has her own demons which we get a peek at in this first instalment, but will become clearer over subsequent books.

Grace isn’t an easy person to like, but as the story progresses you realise that she is how she is because of her background. It is then you realise why she is uptight and feels as though she has the world on her shoulders. However, to balance this, we have Quinn and Klara, although they have their issues to deal with, these two, especially Klara, brought much needed light relief to the proceedings. Fennell is extremely good at dialogue, especially the chat within the office atmosphere where not everyone seems to have received the memo that we are now in the 21st Century.

‘The Art of Death’ is highly addictive and satisfying. As with all art, Fennell delivers light and shade in abundance. This is a solid start to the series and one you won’t want to put down.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) Your first two books were Urban Fantasy, so what made you drift over to the dark side to writing the crime novel?
Actually, it was the other way round. I drifted from Crime to Urban Fantasy and back to Crime again. Before the Sleeper series I worked on two different crime projects that I just lost steam with. I didn’t love them, and therefore abandoned them. I was always going to return to Crime and when I had the idea for ‘The Art of Death’, I hit the ground running.
2) ‘The Art of Death’ starts off with a macabre art installation. Was this your jumping off point and do you know what sparked this bizarre premise?
Yes it was. My rationale being the killer exhibits his victims as art, therefore why not kick off the story with a sinister collection of corpses. Two things sparked the premise. One being the famous fibreglass cow sculptures that suddenly appeared overnight in city streets throughout the country. The second being a Spanish horror movie from the seventies called La Cabina, which tells the story of a man who becomes trapped forever in a telephone-box. It’s free to watch online and well worth a look.
3) DI Grace Archer has a traumatic past which you touch upon. Will you be unveiling more details, especially when she crossed paths with her first serial killer?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve just finished the second book, which is now with my editor. There will be more about that serial killer from Archer’s childhood, including the story of what actually happened to her.
4) DS Harry Quinn is a perfect foil for Grace and has her back, but he also has his own cross to bear. Will his past be revealed in future books? Will Quinn still be able to keep the wolves off Grace for having shopped one of her own?
Harry Quinn is indeed a solid support for Archer, yet he has his own demons to deal with. Will he be able to keep the wolves from the door? Hard to say. Life won’t be a walk in the park for either of them.
5) London becomes a character in your book and has plenty of landmarks that I am familiar with. As a lad from Belfast, what was it about London that called to you and after all these years is it why you decided your stories needed to be based in the capital?
I’ve always loved London and know the streets really well, particularly the main locations in the story. This made it easier to write. There is so much to draw from the cityscape, so much beauty, and ugliness, to feature as the perfect backdrop for a crime novel.
6) Although the end of ‘The Art of Death’ was resolved, I felt it was left a little open-ended. Am I right that we may be seeing and learning more of @nonymous in the next book?
I hope this is not a disappointing answer. I’m not keen on recycling stories and prefer to move on new ground. I feel the @nonymous story is done and dusted, although in book 2, it is referenced. That said, there are other ways to be creative with the art killer concept, so perhaps in the future there might be something. What that is, remains to be seen.
7) With your experience as a writer, what advice would you give to anyone attempting their first novel?
Don’t give up. Hold your nerve, knuckle down and finish what you’re writing. Stay off social media. Stop watching television. Work, and work hard. Edit when you have completed your first draft. Be brave.
8) Are you a fan of crime fiction? If so, which three crime novels would you like with you if stranded on a desert island?
1. The Silence of the Lambs – The serial killer class that deserves to be read over again.

2. Shadow of the Wind – Not so much crime, but a thriller nonetheless. Beautifully written, gripping and brings to life Barcelona in the 1940s.

3. The Secret History – Because it’s been sitting in my to be read pile for two years.