Crime and thrillers August 2012

by Bernard Carpinter / 04 August, 2012
Bernard Carpinter’s monthly round-up of crime and thrillers.
Collecting Cooper, Paul Cleave, book, book review, reviewObsessed with serial killers, former mental patient Adrian collects items associated with them. He believes Christchurch psychology professor Cooper Riley is not only an expert on serial killers but also one himself, so with his trusty Taser he kidnaps Cooper for his collection – and offers him a woman to kill. COLLECTING COOPER (Penguin, $34.99) is Paul Cleave at his gruesome and murderous  best and brings back ex-cop Theo Tate (from Cemetery Lake), just released from prison for his drunk-driving crash that injured young Emma Green. Now Emma has disappeared and her father demands Tate find her – but has she been snatched by one of the many killers in the book? Through all the mayhem, Cleave drives his complex plot relentlessly forward with his powerful, original prose. World-class, although not for the faint-hearted.

Siri Bergman is a psychotherapist who could do with some psychotherapy herself. For starters, she’s terrified of the dark, so at night her solitary little house outside Stockholm always has all the lights on. In SOME KIND OF PEACE (Simon & Schuster, $37), joint authors Camilla Grebe and Asa Traff present Siri with very real reasons to be afraid – like finding the body of one of her patients floating by her pier. It becomes clear someone is trying to wreck her professional life and probably kill her, but she stubbornly stays in her remote house. This is a well-written psychological thriller with a lot of psychology in it, and since Traff is a psychologist it’s probably more accurate than most such books.

Rose Wilks is in jail, convicted of killing her best friend’s baby, although she protests her innocence. Ruth Dugdall’s THE WOMAN BEFORE ME (Text, $37) recounts, in sometimes excruciating detail, the ways in which a person’s life can get messed up to that terrible extent. Rose is coming up for a probation hearing and probation officer Cate Austin, newly arrived at the prison and trying to sort out her own problems, must decide whether to recommend release. Dugdall really gets inside the heads of her imperfect characters and understands how they can go astray, even if they have good intentions. It slowly builds up to a killer ending.

Andrew Grimes’s THE RICHMOND CONSPIRACY (Text, $37) is set in Melbourne in 1933 during the Depression and the infamous “bodyline” test cricket series with England. A rich businessman has been murdered with a Turkish bayonet and Detective Inspector James Maclaine has no shortage of well-motivated suspects. The case takes on political overtones as Maclaine discovers the victim had been a member of the Praetorian Guard, a group of right-wing former soldiers who fear the hard times will lead to a communist revolution in Australia. Grimes nicely mixes period detail and atmosphere with a cracking yarn, in the first of a new series.

Given there is already an ample sufficiency of crappy thrillers written in the English language, I was surprised a publisher had bothered to translate Cedric Bannel’s THE MANDRAKE FILE (Scribe, $30) from the French. Especially as the start of the book strains credulity like a really crappy thriller – naive young analyst Nick Snee is disconcerted to discover at first-hand the secretive outfit he works for in Switzerland has a sideline in murdering people. But much of the action is set in Afghanistan, where honest policeman Osama Kandar insists on investigating the death of a government minister, even though his bosses want him to declare it a suicide. The sections in Afghanistan are well done, offering insights into the history and culture of that ravaged country. A mixed bag.

Bernard Carpinter is a journalist.
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