DEATH OF A MURDERER by Rupert Thomson


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A policeman reflects on our potential for evil as he guards the corpse of a female child molester and murderer.

Thomson (Divided Kingdom, 2005, etc.) has produced a “no-one-done-it” that, though lacking in detective work, is tautly crafted and absorbing. Billy Tyler lives in uneasy truce with life. Unmotivated, he never sought promotion to sergeant; he questions why the joy has fled from his marriage to Sue; he worries about his daughter, who has Down syndrome; and he struggles with his feelings for his father, a now-dead jazz musician whom Billy met twice in his life. During his 12-hour shift guarding the dead woman, who died of natural causes after 36 years in prison, his task is to fend off publicity and the morbid souls who want a trophy from the famous child murderer. Over the course of an outwardly uneventful night, Billy confronts his experience of good and evil as he thinks back on the victims and predators in his own past. These include Sue's father, Billy's lover and his childhood chum Trevor. And then there's Raymond, a sadistic former schoolmate whose devil-may-care attitude Billy found compelling as a teenager. During these reflections, the murderer bursts into Billy's subconscious, goading him to ask her why she could have done what she did, to acknowledge that anyone, “if the circumstances were right,” might do what she did. In the wee hours, Billy confronts the potential for evil in himself.

A penetrating, introspective twist on the morose-British-constable genre.

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-307-26584-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2007


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