Saturday 31 August 2013

Book review : Chris Carter - One By One

I love Chris Carter. (You can read my reviews of The Crucifix Killer and The Death Sculptor here.) So much so that I carefully saved my review copy of One By One to savour on holiday. I'm glad I did because he certainly hasn't lost his touch.

One By One is the latest novel featuring Detective Robert Hunter and his partner Carlos Garcia from the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division. This time, the cops didn't have to go out looking for the serial killer - he came looking for them. An anonymous phone call comes through asking Detective Hunter to log on to a website where the pair discover a macabre scene, with apparently authentic live images of a man trussed up in a big perspex box, with the killer ordering them to choose how he will be put to death. The scenes that follow are horrific but, sadly, are just the first in a series of similarly barbaric murders, with the subsequent killings asking internet visitors to vote for the method of death.

Chris Carter certainly knows how to work his audience. I read a lot of crime fiction, much of it more graphic and blood-thirsty than anything Chris Carter writes, but he adds a psychological element of suspense, playing with the reader so that it becomes almost unbearable to read. If I had been watching a film version of One By One, there was one scene where I would have had to close my eyes and hide behind a cushion because the build-up of tension got to me. Instead, I had to do the literary equivalent and skip a couple of pages to the next chapter. It's been a very long time since a book had this effect on me, which just shows how well written it is. But far from being sickened, I was impressed ! I felt like a mum, chastising her kids for being gross at the dinner table while secretly hiding an amused smirk. Chris Carter enjoys playing with his readers just as much as his serial killer enjoys toying with the detectives.

The book takes an interesting look at online behaviour too. The policemen are sickened to see how many people get involved in the voting, sending the victims to their deaths. The first time most of them probably assume it is a hoax, but for the later crimes, it is made clear by the media that these murders are for real and people still vote. This concept of all things online being totally separate to real life is behind a lot of online bullying and trolling incidents where people have a similar mentality.

Despite the elaborate murder methods, the plot is very realistic and believable, particularly when we uncover the killer's motives. While I wouldn't go so far as to say his crimes were justified, the motive does make us take a second to consider the concepts of innocent and guilty and what could push a "normal" human being to become a savage serial killer.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £12.99

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (15 Aug 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0857203053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857203052
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 4 cm

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