In separate parts of England two bodies have been found - both of them horribly mutilated, ritually humiliated... but strangely, it seems, most of the worst of the atrocities are committed after the men were heavily drugged. Aside from the method, which indicates a single killer, there's precious little obvious connection between these two victims, and Scotland Yard is called in to take over the investigation. DCI Jack Hawksworth is put in charge of the investigation, despite an horrendous outcome in his last case. He puts together a team of investigators - many of whom he has worked with before. DI Kate Carter is smart, ambitious, attractive and excited to be included in that team. Sure she has always found herself attracted to Hawk, but they have worked together before, and she's now engaged and planning her wedding. Surely they can work together. Meanwhile the killer they seek is after vengeance for crimes past and it is not until Hawk and his team can work that out, that they have a chance of stopping the deaths.
BYE BYE BABY is the first crime novel by well-known Australian Fantasy author Fiona McIntosh, which makes the reading of this supposedly debut novel make a lot more sense. There's an aplomb about the structure of the story and accomplishment to the writing that can sometimes be less obvious in a debut novel. There's also some elements in BYE BYE BABY that did stand out as the mark of a debut crime novelist. This dichotomy makes reviewing this book quite a challenge. There's a bit of tweaking of common crime fiction cliches in BYE BYE BABY. Jack Hawksworth is the gorgeous, much coveted DCI - haunted by romantic attachments in the past and the death of a policeman in his last case - these events still threaten his career. He is counseled by his senior officers to take care in his relationships with his new team - especially put together to track down this killer. Kate Carter is attractive in her own right, but she's finding herself questioning her own marriage plans and increasingly feeling attracted to Jack and cannot control jealous reactions when he is encouraging of the younger, female DS in their team. There's also the source of the original crime - the event that triggered this killer's reactions and the killer themselves. Suffice to say there's a twist in there that you can see coming pretty early in the book. There are quite a few elements to the plot that are revealed to the reader much earlier than the police come across the detail which sort of gives the reader a bit of a pantomime feeling - you sort of find yourself wanting to yell "he's behind you" - or the literary equivalent at points throughout the book. There is also some interesting characterisations going on - there are points in this book that I sincerely disliked every single person - police, victims, killer, families and all. There were other points when it was possible to empathise, to understand - but most of the time you weren't too sure whose side you were on.
What's really interesting was that you'd think that some the clunky plot elements, some of the romantic tension, the angst over personal lives, the almost voyeuristic feeling that the reader has in knowing what's going on a long time before the police work it out - would detract considerably from the book. But it doesn't totally turn you off. The aplomb of the writing, the tension of the story and the plot, the compassion you can feel for the killer keeps the reader occupied and engaged and just ever so slightly conflicted about what is really justice. The final twist ending was, to tell the truth, hard to decide on. Was it intriguing, and in a strange way, a form of ultimate justice, or was it a convenient cop-out - a desire by the author to throw that final massive twist the reader's way. It's one of those endings that some readers are going to hate, and others are going to like.