Filler content with infernal economics

Your resident blogger is in one of those periodic troughs when he doesn’t have time to write original material, so expect nothing but videos and filler content for the next week or so.

Here’s a little something from The Third Alternative #36:-


Shaun Hutson

Time Warner hb, 373pp, £15.99

reviewed by Peter Tennant

Detective Inspector Alan Fielding is heading up the investigation into a series of child murders, but the case bears none of the hallmarks of such crimes, with the killer leaving no forensic evidence and no indication that the victims were sexually molested. When photographs of the children appear on a paedophile website a horrific new possibility emerges. David and Roma Todd are an unhappily married couple, the main bone of contention being their daughter Kirsten, who suffers from a rare illness that will not only bring her life to an untimely end but also poses a threat to all those around her. David is scared of his daughter and alarmed by his wife’s desire for a second child, so avoids confronting this harsh reality by throwing himself into his work, while Roma copes through constantly belittling her husband and indulging in meaningless affairs with young men. Jeff and Nikki Reed are heavily in debt to a loan shark whose patience is fast running out. For them the only way out from under is a plan put forward by Nikki’s brother; kidnap Kirsten Todd and hold her for ransom, but the Reeds don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for.

Hutson’s gifts as a writer may not be exceptional, but he makes the most of what he has. The three separate plot strands are developed efficiently and brought to a satisfactory conclusion, except for a couple of loose ends that should have been tied off. His characterisation, if not remarkable for depth or insight, is more than adequate to the task in hand, giving us people whose problems and the ways they deal with them seem all too credible, and through the use of short, time related chapters he builds up a real narrative head of steam. The paedophile material is handled with sensitivity, shocking but never exploitative or sensational, as one might have expected given Hutson’s, largely self-inflicted, reputation as a schlockmeister. Only at the very end does he lapse into the sort of in your face, gross out horror with which, right or wrong, his name is associated, topping it off with a naff and wholly predictable final twist. Bottom line with this book is that it’s a page turner; reading it took me less than four hours and I hardly noticed the passage of time. It doesn’t cut any edges or blur any boundaries, but it is quietly and efficiently entertaining, and that may just be enough.

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