Book reviews, new books, publishing news, book giveaways, and author interviews

Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter

crucifix killer chris carter Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter

The aptly named Robert Hunter is the LAPD homicide departments wunderkind, a gifted overachiever whose combination of drive and incisiveness have allowed him to quickly climb the ranks of the homicide squad. But Hunters seemingly stellar career isnt entirely as it seems, with its glowing achievements rather muted by some somewhat more desultory outcomes that he avoids mentioning where possible. Perhaps the darkest spot for Hunter is the Crucifix Killer, a serial killer whose grisly efforts tormented Hunter months, and still dofor though the killer was eventually detained and imprisoned, Hunter cant shake the feeling that there is perhaps something more to the case. So when Hunter is called in to investigate a horrific incident involving the disfigured body of a young women, he is not entirely surprised to find that the body bears the mark of the sadistic Crucifix Killer. This time, however, the killer has made it clear that the body count is set to rise.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that Im not an especially avid crime reader. Mysteries, yes, crime no. And the reason for this is similar to that given by Literary Review 'reviewer Jessica Man: the increasingly gratuitous and sadistic violence against women (and often children) that typifies these books is something that riles the rather vocal feminist within me. Unfortunately, given my stance on this matter, I was destined to struggle with the Crucifix Killer from the beginning (although the blatant misogyny in this book is only one of the myriad problems that lurk between its covers). Not only are we subject to a number of scenes in which women are tortured and tormented, but women more generally throughout the book are treated as little more than playthings, with the entire female side of the cast leaning heavily towards the women of the night variety, or as lost and without valid identities of their own.

However, its not simply the women who are treated so shabbily in this novel: Carters approach to racial minorities is itself somewhat questionable. Admittedly, Im not an American, and my understanding of the race and class in America is obviously cursory and without nuance, but I cant help but feel that Carters take on minority characters is at times inappropriate.

The authors psychology background features prominently in this book, but unfortunately in a rather blatant way, manifesting often as a info-dumps about the field of psychology as well as case studies about each and every character who steps on stage. Unfortunately, beyond this, Carters evident insight into the human psyche seems to shrink into the background whenever there should be opportunity to receive more insight into the characters. Perhaps part of the problem is that the cast comprises a number of fairly stereotypical pimps, prostitutes, drug runners, and soi-disant hardened LA cops, but unfortunately Carters characters overall are roughly as wooden as the famed Trojan horse, and without any surprises lurking inside to make up for it. A dossier on each player does not a character make, Im afraid, particularly when were given so little else in terms of dialogue, interaction, or introspection to help us along the way.

Its not just in terms of the overall writing and characterisation that this book didnt work for me, however. The mystery itself (for it does attempt to set itself up rather more as a mystery than a thriller) is strongly reminiscent of certain Hollywood blockbusters, with Seven and Saw both coming rather gruesomely to mind, particularly in the opening scene, where Hunter is urged (by a distorted recorded voice, no less!) to make a particularly weighty decision regarding his partner. Unfortunately, this in media res opening is rather ineffective given that its true place in the story arrives some four hundred pages later, and come chapter 1, the reader is right back at square one trying desperately to fill in the blanks. The fact that Hunter is trying for a second time to apprehend a serial killer is worked quite awkwardly, too: I had to check to make sure that this book was really, as it claimed to be, the first, and not the second, in a series.

While I can live with a cliched narrative, as a cliche done well can still make for a great read, The Crucifix Killer often struggles for coherence, with plot lines straggling all over the place and failing to come together neatly. The end of the novel doesnt reach a neat climax so much as it is the point where the various different plot points and characters collide. Indeed, towards the very end of the novel certain rather important events are skipped over so that the reader ends up with a rather confusing retrospective recount of all that has happened. To me, the least effective element of the plot is the way in which the killer is, Scooby Doo-like, eventually unmasked. And it is indeed an unmasking, as despite the red herrings throughout the plot, no actual clues have been offered that could lead to this persons being the killer. To be honest, its rather frustrating that Detective Hunter takes the time to reflect back on all manner of conversations and past events that dont actually occur within the pages of the book itself to assert that, yes, indeed, it does all make sense, when, quite frankly, it doesnt.

In all, Im afraid that this was a disappointing read for me.

Rating: star Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carterhalfstar Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carterblankstar Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carterblankstar Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carterblankstar Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter

Purchase The Crucifix Killer

With thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for the review copy

Other books by Chris Carter:

the executioner carter Review: The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter

No comments