Catch a Killer shifts in disconnected chapters from one character and scene to another, but what is annoying about it is...



Catch a Killer shifts in disconnected chapters from one character and scene to another, but what is annoying about it is that Woods seems to shift just as abruptly from one kind of story to another. The first chapter, an intense argument between a twelve year-old boy struggling for independence and his harried, widowed mother, seems to promise some serious psychological or interpersonal probing; instead the fight serves merely as a mechanical device to send Andrew storming out of his mother's house and into the deserted one where the killing takes place. There are hints of another kind of depth in the interrupting fragments in which a boy named Craig (who later turns out to be the killer) reacts passively from the age of three to other boys' physical attacks -- until at last, in Georgia with the army, he is severely beaten by three ""rednecks"" and ""For the first time in his life he wanted to fight back and he didn't care what he used."" Though the episodes grow in length and interest, this cumulative illustration of violence begetting violence is simplistic as an explanation of murder and too one dimensional to bring Craig to life as a character. But mostly and most successfully this is the tensely deliberate suspense story of Andrew, who witnesses Craig's panic shooting of two policemen (they are routinely checking the deserted house where Craig, now an army deserter, has taken shelter), then is beaten and later gagged and dragged by Craig to a hideout in the woods. The unwavering focus here is on Andrew's terror, hunger, physical discomfort and final near exhaustion, though these sensations are mixed in the end with musings on the little acts of kindness (feeding him, drying his clothes) which alternate with Craig's cruelty, and Woods makes a small point of Andrew's growing dependency on his agonizing captor who can't quite bring himself to kill the boy as a damaging witness. Other chapters concentrate on Benson, the police chief who has a fatal heart attack at the scene of the killing (he's come to check up on his missing patrolmen), and Tawney, state plainclothesman who finds Andrew and Craig in the woods and is wounded in a shoot-out fatal to the latter. Their stories have another tone: the matter-of-fact flatness of straight detective fiction. And the final hint of Tawney and Andrew's mother getting together after Andrew's rescue (""Lieutenant Tawney has promised to come for supper. . . isn't that right, Dan?"") belongs in a less serious and realistic children's story than this appears to be.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1972


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972