Filler content with nemesisity (but not nemonymousity)

This one was posted to the old TTA Press website on 10 July 2007:-

NEMESIS by VINCENT COBB
M-Y Books paperback, 347pp, £9.99

Rookie policewoman Angela Crossley is given the unenviable task of humouring a young woman who claims to be in psychic contact with a killer brutally murdering children. Against all the odds Connie turns out to be the real article, but the strain of helping the police with their enquiries tips her already precarious mental balance over the edge. Connie is hospitalised for a number of years, and during this time Angela maintains contact, the two women becoming good friends, but then, just when it seems Connie might be ready to make a new start, the killer resurfaces ready to pick up where he left off. Angela, now a police sergeant and dating the Inspector in charge of the case, is forced to treat her friend as a resource, one that must be exploited even at the cost of putting her life in peril.

The central premise here is intriguing, but the book itself is something of a mixed bag. On the negative side of things, the writing is often flat and lifeless, with characterisation that doesn’t quite ring true a lot of the time. The first person female narrator is possibly a bad choice by the author. Mostly the protagonist’s gender isn’t an issue and on occasion, such as when the two women bond, it’s handled convincingly, but there are moments which stick out like a sore thumb, where the story will be tootling along nicely and it’s almost as if Cobb has remembered his protagonist is a woman and feels obliged to remind the rest of us, and so will throw out a line that sound horrendously obvious and slightly naff, such as ‘went out to shop for cigs and tampons’. There are other problems with the female viewpoint character. Angela’s way of relieving stress is to have energetic sex with her boyfriend, which seems unlikely. After a day spent examining photos of mutilated children and trying to work out the motives of their murderer I would imagine sex would be the last thing on her mind. Elements of the plot seem equally dubious, with me reaching conclusions long before the police and guessing the identity of the killer (guess I’ve watched too many episodes of CSI for my own good), while Connie’s psychic ability seems rather conveniently hit and miss.

On balance it’s fair to say that there is less to commend Nemesis than not and yet, despite all my misgivings, it did hold my interest and is worth sticking with to discover how everything turns out. There are intriguing and credible accounts of how the mind of a child serial killer works (Cobb appears to have done his research) and the politics of a high profile police investigation. There are scenes, such as the discovery of the children’s bodies and the final resolution between Connie and the killer, where an air of desolation and the overpowering grimness of what is taking place filters through regardless of any shortcomings in the prose or plotting, so that ultimately the reader can’t help but be shocked and moved.

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