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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Killing the Beasts. Chris Simms. Orion (2005)

A gripping, thoughtful and low key crime story that very effectively utilises a splintered narrative. In Manchester a woman is found dead, she has been killed in a very unusual fashion. Detective Jon Spicer is assigned to the case, taken off an ongoing investigation into a series of thefts of very expensive cars. DI Spicer is concerned about his friend Tom Benwell whom he has not seen for a while. The narrative loops back some months to the lead up to the Commonwealth Games due to be staged in Manchester and follows DI Spicer, Sly a car thief, Tom and a very odd man called George. As the story shifts time and perspective the threads start to weave together, the reveals are very cunningly staged and the plot meshes in a compelling and unexpected fashion. The conclusion is superbly orchestrated.
The structure of the book takes a little getting used to and Chris Simms is willing to take time to tell a story before it becomes clear how it relates to the criminal plot. By taking the time Chris Simms gives the principal cast the opportunity to fully establish themselves. As the story of the murder investigation moves forward Chris Simms skillfully exploits the opportunities he creates in the flashbacks to develop the plot.
One of the very nice things about the book is the absence of the overly theatrical serial killer that frequently haunts similar stories. While this can be an effective element in a story, in this case the low key approach has a substantial pay off. This is a really enjoyable, superbly crafted and gripping story.

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