By Tania Carver
Pegasus Crime Publishing ($25.95)
Reviewed by Sam Waas
Most Americans have no idea how pervasive our TV presence has become, especially in Great Britain and Europe. Yes, there are many excellent shows produced there, some higher quality than our run-of-the-mill US product. But in the general arena, American crime shows like CSI and Law & Order tend to dominate the ratings.
Public perception of how modern police operate has now become molded to this fictional template, both in the US and UK/Euro markets. Police are expected to have vast technologies at their fingertips, crime labs that border on science fiction, instant identification and tracking of every person, car, cat, and dog, 24/7. This expectation has also trickled over into modern crime fiction. THE CREEPER is one such book, and the story suffers slightly from the insistence that police behave as their TV counterparts.
The premise of the novel is excellent. In Colchester, a mid-size English city, a psychotic is stalking and murdering young women. We are "treated," if that's the word for such a violent narrative, to his dark thoughts, his warped psyche, his bloody planning. And the focus then alternates to his victims, how they are relentlessly but unsuspectingly drawn into his traps. These passages are strong, compelling, and thrilling.
Of course, the police are working the case, putting together leads, searching for the killer. The Major Incident squad is led by Detective Phil Brennan. Phil's an excellent investigator and has a first rate staff. This portion of the novel is much brighter, a solidly constructed police procedural. Yet some of it doesn't ring true, as the investigative sequences seem pushed.
It's difficult to say precisely where the book disappoints. And when it does, it's not severely, but subtly. I think it's how the pace switches too abruptly from the stalker and his victims to the more ordered police investigative passages. Of course, it's imperative to tell each side of the story, how the killer works and how the cops are tracking him. The fault seems to lie with not having blended both story lines smoothly enough. The transitions are too quick, too sheer. Each time the pace changes, the reader is left wanting a bit more of the previous story line. I also think that reliance on "CSI-style" police work makes the investigative theme somewhat unrealistic.
Overall, THE CREEPER is a very good modern crime thriller. But at times, I felt disengaged from the narrative, not hooked by a page-turner as was intended. This criticism is mostly an impression I received, however, and does not detract from an otherwise entertaining mystery. All the elements are there, and other readers may not have the same opinion as I. THE CREEPER is therefore recommended, albeit with slight reservations.
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