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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Spider. Michael Morley. Penguin Books (2008)


A gripping and very well constructed serial-killer thriller. Jack King was a FBI profiler who broke down while trying to capture the Black River Killer, a very prolific serial killer. Jack and his wife move to Italy and take over a hotel and try to rebuild their lives. The Black River Killer case remains unfinished business for Jack King and on the twentieth anniversary of his first murder it returns to his life. A woman in murdered in Italy and the details are very suggestive of the BRK and Jack is brought into the Italian investigation. At the same time the BRK is active in America and as the story cleverly twists these threads together to a gripping and unexpected climax. The reveals are very well paced, the savagery of the BRK is made clear and the structure of the investigations are dynamically unfolded.
Michael Morley has no sympathy for the BRK while developing him as a credible and compelling character. His motivation and the reasons for his lengthy career in murder are clearly laid out, he is clearly an aberrant and extremely dangerous person who is devoid of any human sympathy and inspires none in the reader. His victims and the rest of the cast however are drawn with underlying compassion and care and they do come to tumultuous life in the book. Michael Morley develops a very large and diverse cast and gives each person enough definition and room to breathe that they emerge as individuals.
This swirling crowd serves to emphasise the hollow nature of the BRK and the damage that he wreaks on the lives of others. The structure of the book is thoughtful and carefully wrought, the investigation feels like it really is being made up as it proceeds, actions and reactions move the momentum of the story and create a very engaging and tension drenched read. Excellent.

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