Twisted Wing – Ruth Newman

“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.” ― William S. Burroughs

I was recommended this book by a gentleman I used to work with, he found out I liked to read horror fiction and said this one would give me a fright. Sadly he passed away the January before last, so this one’s for him. Thank you for the recommendation Michael, it saddens me to know I will never again read a book on your advice.

‘Jesus Christ,’ Denison heard Weathers say. He stood up, and as the paramedics and police officers and pathologists shifted position, he saw, between and beyond them, the boy that lay spreadeagled on the floor in a pool of blood, torn open, intestines dragged out and over the floorboards.

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Cambridge is known as a seat of academic excellence, home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world – but sometimes evil lurks in the most unexpected places.

Exams are over and the students of Cambridge University are celebrating, but for one college, the annual May ball takes a bloody turn when a female grandaunt is found brutally murdered in her chambers. Alongside her mutilated body are two further students, Nicholas Hardcastle, found holding the knife frantically stuffing the entrails of the victim back inside her body, and his girlfriend Olivia Corscadden, blood-soaked and completely catatonic. The  ‘Cambridge Butcher’ has struck again.

It is up to forensic psychiatrist Matthew Denison to attempt to draw the killer’s identity from the troubled mind of Olivia, one the most traumatised patients he has ever worked with. If anyone can hope to solve the mystery of the Cambridge Butcher it is Olivia, if only Denison can get her to remember.

She was a pretty girl, Denison thought, even with the black eye and the split lip. Not for the first time he wondered what had provoked this extreme response. Had she really witnessed the murder? Has she herself fought off the killer?
Was the identity of the Cambridge Butcher locked away in that broken mind?

Twisted Wing is as unputdownable as they come – I wasn’t particularly blown away by the calibre of the writing but the story-telling is second to none. Newman switches between the present and past tense, feeding the reader snippets of information about the Cambridge Butcher. While the novel begins in the present tense, the story itself begins four years in the past, when the Cambridge Butcher’s first victim is found.

The book seems to get off to a fairly average start, there are two people found at the scene of the crime, Olivia is sent for psychological analysis while Nick becomes the number one suspect. Having read murder mysteries before I thought it was pretty obvious neither of them would turn out to be the killer. It would be too simple, or so I thought. In reality, the book is far more complex and unexpected than I ever could have anticipated. It is more of a psychological thriller than a run of the mill murder mystery.

The murder case is an absolute mystery to the police, and it falls to Denison to work out the answers. The students of Ariel College seem to have formed into an impenetrable unified force; there is an ‘us and them’ mentality, and as such the police are struggling to crack the case. One thing is certain, the murders have been committed from within the walls of Ariel College – somewhere within the carefully guarded group is a dangerous psychopath. It has been four year since the first murder, and they are no closer to finding the killer. It is up to Denison to uncover the identity of the Cambridge Butcher, but he must first work out the true identity of Olivia.

I would love to tell you that I found the book scary, but the reality is that I didn’t – that said, I am a hard-boiled horror fan so it takes a lot to frighten me. The book is definitely unsettling, and there were times when I felt disturbed by what I was reading, but I personally didn’t get that much of a thrill from it – sorry Michael.

Even so, I consumed the book in a matter of days – only stopping to sleep and go to work. I would recommend you set aside a weekend to read it in its entirety, because you will want to keep reading at the end of each chapter.

If you’re a fan of murder mysteries and psychological thrillers I would definitely recommended giving Newman a look in – and if you don’t fall into one of these categories I think it’s fairly obvious this isn’t the book for you.


A slight caveat – I did get a little freaked out at one point when I was reading the book, but that was less thanks to Newman than it was to an unknown individual who decide to sell their second hand copy of Twisted Wing on Amazon. One night I was reading in bed when I felt something fall from between the pages of the book, I assumed it was my bookmark and thought nothing of it, until I went to put the book down and found these police elimination prints in my bed.

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Weird coincidence isn’t it? Why would these be inside a book? The creepiest thing is that they didn’t fall out until I was three-quarters of the way through; my bookmarks always fall out so why didn’t these? Perhaps the old owner put them in there as a bit of a practical joke, or maybe he was just using them as a bookmark (interesting choice). Either way it was unsettling – and slightly exhilarating finding them.