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Portraits of the Dead

(DI Gravel #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,126 ratings  ·  231 reviews
Emma didn’t know how long he hid in the large Victorian wardrobe to the side of her single bed. She didn’t know how long he peered between the two heavy oak doors, and watched, as she slowly drifted into fitful sleep. She didn’t know what time he pushed the doors open and crept towards her in the darkness of the night.

Detective Inspector Gravel finds himself faced with a d
Kindle Edition
Published July 16th 2018 by Bloodhound Books
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3.97  · 
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 ·  1,126 ratings  ·  231 reviews

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(Bern) Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas
An intense & dark psychological thriller that will make you shudder.

Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl starts off exceptionally creepy with 19 year old college student Emma Jones being abducted by a sadistic serial killer who awaited his perfect opportunity, hidden silent and unmoving in her wardrobe. I swear the scene was right out of my worst nightmares! What a way to hook you in!

Emma awakens naked, bruised and bloody, finding herself in a windowless room adorned with portraits o
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

This is the second book that I've read by John Nicholl. I really enjoyed his first novel, "White is the Coldest Colour". The subject matter was difficult to read about but I felt like it was an important book that helped reinforce how careful we should be about who we trust, especially when it comes to those who are interacting with our children. The author previously worked in law enforcement and as a social worker so some
Chelsea Humphrey
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-publisher
Find all my reviews on my blog:

Date Read: 09/05/16
Pub Date: 08/14/16


Emma didn’t know how long he hid, silent and unmoving, in the large Victorian wardrobe to the side of her single bed. She didn’t know how long he peered, salivating and drooling, between the two heavy dark oak doors, and watched, mesmerised, as she slowly drifted into fitful sleep. She didn’t know what time he pushed the doors open and crept towards her in the drab grey darkness of th
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Christine by: Author John asked me to R4R
Thank you, Mr. Nicoll, for sending me an advanced copy of your book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Holy Cow, John Nicoll, you outdid yourself with this one—your best yet!! This is a goodie, folks.

This story starts out with a Creepy (yes, creepy with a capital C) prologue where a young woman (Emma) has been abducted by someone who has done this before. This someone is an absolute sicko. Mr. Nicoll, in my estimate, is the master of creating the most vile, most deranged f**k possible. We learn
PORTRAITS OF THE DEAD by John Nicholl, is a serial killer thriller that will chill you to the bone. I would have to say that after reading his previous two novels, (“White Is The Coldest Colour”, his debut dark psychological thriller, and “When Evil Calls Your Name”) this novel in my opinion is his best! I was so fortunate to receive an ARC of Portraits Of The Dead from the author. He has written three books now…all different but each on dealing with different issues, drawing on his experience a ...more
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
I have read this book for a second time and loved it still! John Nicholl has excelled again! In fact, this is my favourite book by him so far and I have really enjoyed all of them. I think John's writing just gets better and better and this book had me riveted all through the night until the very last word. Whether you have read John's previous great books or not, it doesn't matter - you will want this one on your to-read list!

The book is set in Wales, around the beautiful city of Cardiff that I
Dash fan
5☆ A Must Read! Got under My Skin!

Portraits of the Dead is a creepy, dark, sadistic psychological crime thriller. The Book Cover was enough to creep the hell out of me.

I'm a big fan of John Nicholls so when I was given the opportunity to read this one I jumped at the chance.

Right from the start I was hooked.
When a stranger comes out of your closet during the night and beats you up, abducts you, then watches your every move via cameras I was completely and utterly freaked out!

He refers to Emily
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, netgalley, mystery

We don't see the monster behind the mask.

19 year old Emma is kidnapped and held like a slave in an impenetrable room. Her captor calls her Venus and she has to call him master and do as he likes. She is at the mercy of a ruthless killer who is watching her every move.
The investigations intensify when the bodies of 5 missing women are found in the woods. Is Emma going to be the 6th victim or is she going to see the daylight once again?

I have mixed feelings about this book. It started with a ba
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was not aware of author John Nicholl prior to reading this book but was intrigued by the book description. To be honest I follow that many book series that the last thing I really wanted was to add another one. But after enjoying this opening novel to the DI Gravel series I have already read another and looking for more. I really enjoyed this book and I took to both the characters and the writing style of the author.
The lead character Detective Inspector Gravel is investigating the abduction a
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having read and enjoyed the author's two other books, I accepted his offer of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I did not enjoy this book. The writing in the beginning felt amateurish to me with too much irrelevant detail. I also felt that there was overuse of adjectives to describe things. I didn't connect with Emma at all. Her initial actions after waking up in the room weren't what I would have expected. I found myself skipping ahead and skimming, and I correctly guessed who the abdu
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creepy. C-R-E-E-P-Y. John Nicholl’s newest novel,Portraits of the Dead, features a twisted psychopath who truly made me shudder. Written in much the same style as his psychological thriller, White Is the Coldest Colour, this book features a miscreant who preys upon pretty young blond women.

When Emma awakens in total darkness, she is aware of her nakedness. Bruises. A bed not her own. A blinding bright light pierces the blackness and a man’s voice addresses her, calling her “Venus.” Venus – the g

What attracted me to this authors first book when I came in contact with him via a group on Facebook was first the cover. I am a sucker for a good cover especially that relates to what is inside the book.
Then the blurb, then his background in real life.

Just look closely at this cover. Never ignore the front cover from this author. It tells a story.

I saw that White is the Coldest colour was his debut book. To have such a high regard for presentation was great to see. We are human and we 'eat' wi
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Returning with another psychological thriller, John Nicholl stuns readers with this novel, whose content and dramatic build-up offer something for everyone. Emma Jones is a quiet and down to earth university student whose assault and kidnapping goes off without a hitch for a masked intruder. In a haze, Emma can barely piece together the events that see her locked in a soundproof room, her captor relishing the power he has over her as she cowers in the corner. Forced to degrade herself and offer ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an outstanding read. I haven't read either of Nicholl's previous two books featuring down-to-earth, take no prisoners DI Gareth Gravel but plan to now as this was such a fabulous book. I hope the others prove to be as compelling - I have been assured by friends that they are! Also, a quick sentence about the cover art - wow, it's creepy and fits the synopsis perfectly.

From beginning to end 'Portraits of the Dead' held my interest and if you, like me, find disturbing, creepy and sadistic
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: author-r4r
I need to start this review by saying that I am a big fan of this author and thoroughly enjoyed reading his first 2 books White Is the Coldest Colour and When Evil Calls Your Name. There are also some really strong ratings for this book, so I am in the minority when I say that I just couldn't get into this one.

I had several issues with the book, but I am going to focus in on the main one that made me skip from the 50% mark to the last 15% of the book to finish. (I read in some reviews that the e
Danielle (The Blonde Likes Books)
Emma wakes up alone in a room, with no idea how she got there. Shortly after waking up, a voice comes through an intercom to the room and tells her to do everything he says, or he’ll kill her sooner, like he’s killed others in the past.

DI Gravel is called in to work the case of Emma’s disappearance. Soon after the investigation, the bodies of 5 young women who each resemble Emma are unearthed. DI Gravel knows he needs to work relentlessly to catch this sadistic killer before he kills again.

I've been looking forward to getting my hands on the latest novel by John Nicholls. Following on from the successful and impressive White is the Coldest Colour and When Evil Calls Your Name, there is Portraits of the Dead. For those of us partial to a bit of graphic serial killer drama, look no further.

Someone has been getting away with murder. The police start to uncover the truth about a serial killer in their midst. Five women have been at the mercy of evil, selected and tortured by a psychop
Ann Girdharry
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is dark fiction – we live each day with the incarcerated victim, the perpetrator is twisted, sick and clever. The icing on the cake is that there’s an unexpected accomplice supporting the perpetrator and doing a chunk of the thinking for him – I really enjoyed that accomplice.

John Nicholl has a unique style. There’s immediacy in his writing and an informality. For instance, Emma’s internal dialogue takes you right into her mind. Another aspect that worked well for me was the banter and (da
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it, what a great psychological thriller. Nineteen year old Emma wakes to find herself alone, naked, confined to a room with no lighting, not only is she terrified she is also afraid of the dark. Emma has no idea where she is or how she got there and is very confused as to her surroundings. Emma has been kidnapped and she is not the only one, five others have previously died at the hands of "The Mäster''. The master controls her completely and she relies on him for assistance with her daily ...more
5 Stars

Just imagine lying in bed and somebody came out of the your wardrobe.
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Yes I know.....The first few pages had me hooked.

When student Emma goes missing, the police feel that it's just another teenager enjoying a bit of fun, staying out later than they should. But Emma's mother knows it's more, her daughter wouldn't do that.
Lucky for Emma, her mother knows people in high places so the police start to look into her disappearance.

My name’s DI Gravel; you’re not going to like me very much
 photo download_zpsstpxlkzl.gif

Linda Strong
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Emma doesn't know where she is. Emma doesn't know who took her. Emma doesn't
know why she was chosen. Emma does know she's scared, she's in pain, and he's
never going to let her go ... at least not alive. He calls her Venus 6. He
orders her to call him Master. And he wonders .. is she the one?

DI Gareth Gravel and DS Clive Rankin are investigating Emma's disappearance.
At first glance, she looks like a 19-year-old college student, most likely
traipsing out yonder with a boyfriend. But Emma's mo
Philomena Callan Cheekypee
Although this is a standalone I highly recommend you read the previous two books by this author as they also are great reads.

Nineteen year old Emma's nightmare has come through when she finds herself naked and locked in a concrete room. How is she going to survive and escape from this psychopath. I like that we find out who the captor is early on as we can get into his head.

DI Gareth Gravel and DS Clive Rankin are the investigative officers. Will they succeed in outwitting the captor?

Great twi
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Nicholl writes some wonderfully bleak books and this was no exception in this regard. A man is abducting women and keeping them captive in the hope that they are "the one". When they invariably disappoint him he kills them. His current project is Venus six. DI Gravel is on the case of a missing student that he is certain is the latest victim after a body dump with five bodies of similar women is found. Can they find her before she, too, is killed?

Look, its a page turner but I thought the pl
Novel's about kidnappings are dime a dozen atm and I was intrigued to see how one of my favorite new crime/thriller writers would handle such a specific type of crime. The opening scenes are familiar with a young girl coming to in unfamiliar surroundings and realizing she is being held captive. Emma has no idea who has abducted her, other than he calls her "Venus 6" and says to call him "Master". She will do her best to try and keep herself together psychologically and remain strong as her capto ...more
Kirsty ❤️
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime
I found this book quite frustrating. It had an excellent premise but I didn't think it lived up to it. I was left wanting a whole lot more. I'm not sure why it's classed as a DI Gravel book as he was barely in it. The ending happened way too fast and the last chapter just made no sense to me at all. 

It didn't give me anything to connect with any of the characters. I would have liked more of Emma; how she was feeling, her thought process for escape, dealing with her injuries. It was sadly lacking
The Book Review Café
This book completely freaked me out and that was just from looking at the fantastic and very creepy cover! It’s the clown that did it, they absolutely terrify me! There is no doubt about it author John Nicholl certainly knows how to write a darkly disturbing and hair-raising tale, in my opinion this is john Nicholl’s best book yet. The author pulls the reader in with a shocking and sinister opening chapter, it was so intense I just knew I was in for a hell of a read. A young student is abducted ...more
Joseph - Relax And Read Reviews
Portraits of the Dead is without doubt John Nicholl's best and most chilling book to date. I was lucky enough to receive a very early review copy from the author.

Imagine yourself an insect trapped inside a sealed glass bottle with no chance of escaping. You know that your captor is watching your every movement from outside, licking his lips and planning the best way he can abuse and torture you for his maximum enjoyment... pretty terrifying no? This is what happens to Emma, a young student.

In t
Joanne Robertson
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a huge fan of White is the Coldest Colour which was the first book written by John Nicholl so I was very intrigued to hear that he had written a serial killer chiller and was keen to see how these new characters would make me feel as I absolutely hated the main character of the child psychologist in his previous books. And I'm pleased to say that once again there is a vile and nasty predator out to deceive the police and the public.

When Emma Jones is taken by her kidnapper, I really felt p
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
I have come to expect severe psychological depravity when I read John Nicholl's books. This book did not disappoint in that aspect. The evil kidnapper has taken and killed at least five other women before he took Emma. Emma is held in a darkened area without knowing day from night, hours from days and days from weeks. He insisted on servitude from her while he tortured her and taunted her. It was chilling and sickeningly fascinating. John Nicholl has a history of working as a social worker and u ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma a nineteen year old is kidnapped by a killer who has already killed 5 women . She is locked in a windowless room with a video camera following her each and every move . The sadistic murderer insists she call him “master” and follow his each and every command

Portraits of the dead is a dark creepy disturbing psychological thriller with an unexpected ending though I did feel it was a little rushed . The killer was revealed earlier on in the book which did not take away from the story . Overal
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John Nicholl, an ex-police officer, child protection social worker and lecturer, has written seven darkly psychological suspense thrillers, each of which has been an Amazon #1 Best Seller.

John’s books are set in the UK and have a strong Welsh flavour. He began writing after leaving his job heading up child protection services for Carmarthenshire.

Rights enquiries should be directed to the Lorella

Other books in the series

DI Gravel (3 books)
  • Before I Met Him (DI Gravel, #2)
  • A Cold Cold Heart