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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Secret Friend. Chris Mooney. Penguin Books (2008)


A gripping and entertaining thriller with a twisting plot and an engaging cast. When a woman's body is found floating in Boston harbour, it becomes clear that her murder is related to the earlier murder of the daughter of a very rich and influential man. CSI Darby McCormick is assigned to the case and starts working with detective Tim Bryson. The murder kidnaps another young woman, answering the commands of the Virgin Mary to do so, to keep her captive and to be her friend. When Malcolm Fletcher, an ex-FBI profiler wanted for murder himself, appears to be taking a strong interest in the case and elaborate game of hide and seek takes place. The plot threads are developed with care and attention to detail, the reveals are very cleverly staged and the conclusion wholly satisfying.
The kidnapper is the least interesting member of the cast, Chris Mooney works very hard to spin a character out of a cliche and succeeds as far as it is possible to do. He is considerably more successful with the rest of his cast. Darby McCormick is a striking character, smart, confident and competent she is a pleasure to spend time with. Malcolm Fletcher is a wonderfully ambiguous villain,his version of justice has a dangerous attraction. It is Jonathan Hale, grieving father of the first murdered girl, who emerges as the most interesting character in the book. He is trapped in the horrible ripples of grief and his presence places a strong focus on the victims, which adds great weight and depth to the crimes.
The two victims who are given space are allowed to be considerably more than breasts and screams, they fight and struggle to escape and to maintain their independence. Chris Mooney puts his cast through the wringer, the grip of the book comes from the fact that the cast make us care about it. A great read.

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