Written by Alastair Gunn — With Advent coming to a close we thought it was only appropriate to review The Advent Killer, the debut thriller from experienced British magazine journalist Alastair Gunn. (You can read our interview with the author here.) The novel introduces us to his new protagonist DCI Antonia Hawkins.
The story begins with a woman being murdered in London – the only woman the killer has ever loved. Then we’re taken back in time to two weeks earlier, where Hawkins is sitting in her bathroom willing herself not to throw up. She’s been reduced to this state by one simple text message. A text message that reads: ‘they’ve found number three’. It unfolds that there are now three victims and one killer, which means the perpetrator has just bagged the official designation reserved for the truly psychopathic fruit loop elite. Serial killer.
This third victim is murdered at exactly one in the morning on a Sunday in the run-up to Christmas, just like the others. When she turns out to be Jessica Anderton, a politician’s wife, the media go crazy and DCI Hawkins is under increased pressure to crack the case, with her efforts being scrutinised in the press. She encounters further problems with workplace politics in the force, and opposition from her fellow officers. Hawkins became acting Chief Inspector after her boss Norman Parr collapsed on duty and died, however now Chief Superintendent Lawrence Kirby-Jones is criticising her every move. So the Advent Killer proves to be a make or break case that will decide Hawkins’ future in the police force. Can she find the killer before the next body is due to arrive on the Sunday that concludes the Advent period?
The Advent Killer is both well written and entertaining and I found myself racing to find out what would happen next, and who the killer was. The short chapters make it easy to follow, and Gunn has created the ultimate cold and calculated serial killer. The flashback device is used particularly well to give the reader a glimpse into the mind of the killer, and why he behaves the way he does.
The politics of the police force are explored in an interesting way, with the task force threatened with being taken off the case because they aren’t solving the murders fast enough. However, at times the novel focuses too much on police politics, procedures and briefings, which leaves you wondering why her team aren’t spending more time on the investigation.
I enjoyed the way the author sets up the character of DCI Antonia Hawkins. She’s realistic because she makes mistakes, and her dealings with the media serve to humanise her, ensuring you empathise and engage with the character. We are given a glimpse into DCI Hawkins’ personal life. Her ex-fiancé, Paul, moved out of her house a few months before the story begins, after she had an affair with former partner Mike Maguire. When Mike is brought in on the case, his relationship with Hawkins only adds to the tension.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars