Length: 423 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
When Homicide Detective Robert Hunter walks into the derelict cottage, he sees something that makes his worst nightmare come alive. The naked body of woman is strung from two parallel wooden posts, her face skinned off, an unbelievable amount of torture having been inflicted upon her. And the mark of a double crucifix cut into the back of her neck. But that signature had been known only to the people working the case that had consumed Hunter’s life until two years ago. But they’d caught that murdered, and the Crucifix Killer had been executed. Then what could explain the scene that lay before him? A copycat maybe? The theory holds some weight… until Hunter receives the call. And then he and his rookie partner are assigned to the case – to finding a murdered who had already taken him to the edge of madness and greif once. Would he succeed in pushing him over this time?
Let me first state that I began this book with a whole lot of expectations, born from an excellently written blurb that had me hooked within just a few words. I mean – sadistic killer, a psychopathic signature that’s all too familiar and a detective with an obviously tormented past – it’s got all the ingredients for a great crime thriller with a side of criminal psychology. And of course, the fact that the author is a criminal psychologist.
So there I was, diving into The Crucifix Killer with bated breath and high hopes.
But page after page, the book managed to just about keep me hooked on the story, while letting me down on everything else.
The first good thing about the book was its story line. It had the right pace, the right amount of twists and turns and even managed to bring in unpredictable touches to that which was predictable. The second good thing was the characterization of the main characters. There were contradictions to each character’s personality which gave them a human-ness that was very appreciable. They did what had to be done, but they were not immune to fear and pain – it gave them a very real persona.
But that was where the good points ended.
The first thing that strikes you when you read The Crucifix Killer is that it is, without doubt, Chris Carter’s first novel. The writing style varies from really good in a few odd places, to really amateur in most others. For a criminal novel, there is a severe lack of mystery in his writing. He sort of just states things – narrative and dialogue. And that is a real downer. Not only are you left reading something that is written more like ‘the obvious book of obvious observations’, you also end up with dialogue that most often evokes the thought, “Who talks like that?”
You would think that this isn’t a big deal, but it really brings down the flow and pace, which is a real shame considering you like the characters and the story too. Sometimes, the characters also get annoying because there is some odd bluntness even to them that you can’t put your finger on, but that clearly exists and diminishes the reading experience.
So where does The Crucifix Killer really stand?
I think it’s okay as the first book of an author who clearly comes across as one with great potential. You can see that he’s got the ability to be a really amazing story-teller – it comes up many times and when it does, pulls you right into the story. The facts and information have a way of coming across as really accurate because of his diverse experience, giving you interesting insight into criminal psychology. The things that are lacking seem like they’ll reduce over time and books. And that is why, in spite of the drawbacks I found in his style, I will probably read another Chris Carter novel, and then another. If you like crime thrillers and crime fiction, and if you enjoy criminal psychology, then you should The Crucifix Killer a shot. Maybe you won’t feel the disappointment I did and will just love it – many people do. Or maybe, you’ll like it just enough to read another, and to take it from an okay book to one that gets a 3 out of 5 rating.
What did you think of Chris Carter’s The Crucifix Killer? Share your opinions in the comments below.
– Rishika S.