In Laville’s dark debut thriller, a London artist is tormented by a serial killer seemingly inspired by his work.
Artist Jason Jones is obsessed with a murderer stalking Camden Town and closely follows newspaper articles and social media. But the Camden Killer leaves something for Jason in his storage unit—the mutilated body of his friend/lover Stephen Craine. Jason tells the coppers that the killer’s symbolic positionings of the victims are similar to those in his art. And sure enough, someone seems to be following him, very possibly the same person who poisons his cat. Jason’s sordid past and secrets, including that his older sister, Jenny, was institutionalized, may hold the key to unmasking the killer. The narrative consists almost entirely of Jason’s flashbacks after identifying a corpse for the police, and the fractured telling resembles Jason’s jumbled memories. There’s an ambiguity implied by the novel’s structure, almost as if Jason, as narrator, is piecing together a tale he’s either spinning or genuinely can’t immediately recall. Laville retains mystery by dropping hints of horrors soon to be revealed. The thriller overflows with genuine surprises, and readers are bound to guess a few by sheer chance. Genre conventions are more prevalent during the final act: Jenny’s missing, Jason’s trust in others gradually declines, and the artist may soon become a murder suspect. But Jason’s personal life, which involves childhood friends James and Jane, is riveting even without the plotline of a stalking serial killer. There’s a legion of grave secrets buried in his history, and just when you think you’ve heard the worst, another much more disturbing revelation unfolds. The ending, not as harrowing as one might expect, will resonate nonetheless.
Grim, somber, ferocious—a novel to read again.