Red Ribbons (Dr. Kate Pearson), by Louise Phillips

In Ireland there’s a serial killer preying on young girls. When found in their remote graves they look eerily similar. Posed as if in prayer, their hair is carefully braided with a distinctive red ribbon.

Psychologist and criminal profiler Kate Pearson is assigned to the case. Each new grave gives her a deeper insight into the killer, helping her develop a profile. As she does her investigation we get brief first person narratives by the killer himself, and a surprising connection to Pearson may connect them in the distant past. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist at a facility for the criminally insane gradually learns from an inmate that these killings may go back much farther than anyone realizes.

Phillips does a good job of balancing the three themes that run through the book, bringing them all together at the end. We also get some flashes of Pearson’s life as she struggles to balance work, parenthood, and a relationship with her child’s father who resents her dedication to her work.

For a series detective Phillips spends a remarkably small amount of word count developing Phillips as a character. There are hints of her past and present but nothing to make the reader want to support her as she goes through her investigation. We really learn more about the killer, telling his own story, than we do of Kate Pearson. The killer ends up being the most interesting person in the book, followed a close second by a woman whose daughter’s death sent her spinning into a small hell.

It’s a fair read for a fan of detective or psychological mysteries. No great insights into Ireland or her people fall out of the book any more than a detective of depth, but the mystery is good with a good resolution.