|Date Published||06 April 2017|
A brutal murder, a note on the body, and the last six years melt away as homicide detective Valerie Hart remembers one name – Katherine Glass.
Now, six years later, Nick Blaskovitch, fellow cop and Valerie’s boyfriend, is taking Valerie away for a weekend. He has a ring and he is going to propose. But Valerie is called to the scene of a hideous crime. The body of a brutally murdered woman has been found, slaughtered with the same trademarks of Glass and her lover. On the victim’s body is a note from the killer, addressed to Valerie. The Man in the Mask is back in business.
Valerie knows there is only one way to stop the murderer before the body-count rises. She must contact Katherine Glass. But Glass’s mind is a snake-pit, one which Valerie isn’t sure that she can survive entering a second time.
Saul Black is a pen-name for the author Glen Duncan, whose novel I, Lucifer, I thoroughly enjoyed. So, I was looking forward to reading Lovemurder, even though I would be jumping in on the second Valerie Hart book. I hated it. I hated the style, the voice, the gratuitous profanities. I hated the third-person, omniscient point of view that lacked cohesion. For the first 50 or so pages, I struggled to not throw the book out with the rubbish. Far from the lyrical prose I was expecting from Duncan, it felt pretentious yet clumsy. It read as if the author had tried to develop a style solely to shock his readers. With the emphasis on the word tried. I left the book on the bedside table and read another one instead. A few days later, feeling generous, I decided to give the book another go.
Whether I had unconsciously decided to read it from a less sensitive point of view or whether Black had got over the need to disturb his readers, I am not sure. But where I picked up the story, it was like someone else had grabbed Black’s pen and taken control. The whole tone changed. In fact, in some perverse need-to-keep-hating-the-book way, I found myself thinking, ‘How disappointing; this is actually quite ordinary.’
Of course, it wasn’t ordinary. There was some great writing and it had an interesting plot. The main characters, Valerie and Katherine, were well developed. The pacing was sharp, and to a point, my disbelief hung in satisfied suspension. To a point. I have my gripes. When I read, and saw, The Silence of the Lambs, the author showed me the superiority of Lecter’s intelligence without being condescending.
Katherine Glass was supposedly the female version of Hannibal Lecter, the highly intelligent serial killer who helps the detective find another serial killer. I didn’t feel or believe it. At no time, did she ‘show’ her superior intelligence. All her clue-solving was done off-stage. And although there were reasons for that, it would have been satisfying to have ‘seen’ a bit of that supposed intellect. Yes, she ‘appeared’ to be more perceptive than the average person, but even that was not entirely convincing, just overdone.
Like most of the other characters, Nick, Valerie’s cop boyfriend, was underdeveloped. The only things that stood out about him were that he had no problem cooking meals that didn’t get eaten, and had completely got over finding Valerie in flagrante with another man. Neither point endeared him to me or felt believable, they just made him wimpy. Which brings me to another moan. I am sure it is done to contrast Nick and Valerie’s love for one another with the hideous crimes going on around, but to have their ‘perfect love’ rammed down my throat at every opportunity was boring and counterproductive.
For similar reasons of overkill-a-point, without spoiling the plot, it didn’t take much to work out who the Man in the Mask was from early on, or where the story was going. I suspect Lovemurder is a Marmite case: readers will either love the book or give up, as I nearly did, before the story gets interesting. I would entirely understand the ‘we-hate-Marmite’ brigade, but would suggest pushing on. For all the above, it is a gritty, fast-paced read, and well worth persevering with, if the reader doesn’t mind disturbing scenes.
Reviewed 05 August 2017 by Kati Barr-Taylor
Kati Barr-Taylor lives in her ‘cosy pigsty’ in the Dordogne. She satisfies her literary cravings by translating, writing, editing and reading.