Published by HarperCollins
A slew of inventively brutal killings of unconnected victims at crime scenes cleaned of all forensic evidence; an unknown serial-killer whose only motive is to return to the “mercilessness” and “violence” of Nature: “Because I have to”; and, a detective whose powerfully morbid imagination is a product of his abusive past.
These murders seem truly to be in cold blood, while being described by the (almost) chillingly dispassionate killer with all the pleasurable sensuality of a love affair. There’s a deft dance between DI Corrigan’s instincts and the killer’s confidence as police try to ascertain what is “progression” and what’s “camouflage” in the murderer’s changing tactics. Sean Corrigan’s reimagining of the murders – uncannily close to each original – are enthralling and disturbing. His family life is real, impossibly rocked by his job and opposing responsibilities. He is neither a loner nor a bachelor at heart, but driven by fear of and a need to avoid his own potential for abuse. His colleagues have their own agendas, their own concerns, and their own negotiations with the moral complexities of their lives. There are no minor characters, only people the reader gets to know more intimately than others – and Delaney uses each introduction (whether a shopkeeper, bouncer, or antiques-seller) to deepen his portrayals of the people he follows throughout the novel. There are no cursory exchanges.
Delaney takes apparently well-trodden ground, and confounds the reader’s expectations. The plotting is excellent, the narrative swift and sparky. He weaves his cast with the dexterity of an artisan and has created a string of convincing, potential protagonists, giving himself the real opportunity to spin-off multiple series. There’s a rich density to the layering of points-of-view, and the creepy recurrence of first-person-narration – almost journal-like, even epistolary at times – in amongst various third-persons’ (victims, police, suspects) is effectively unsettling. It’s rare to finish reading a book, feeling satisfied whilst still looking over your shoulder on the way to the bathroom at night; but Delaney’s cleverly leading and consciously anonymous “I” haunted me for several days. The final chapter left me vulnerably alert, wondering, do we really know who that voice belongs to?
This is tight, imaginative plotting a authentic, intelligent characterisation from a debut writer, who happens to be an ex-Met murder squad detective.