Written by James Carol — Every so often, book critics bemoan the ongoing interest in serial killer novels. Well, there seems no end to the public fascination with what is a particularly rare kind of criminal, especially if you can give them a new twist. That’s what James Carol does in his Jefferson Winter series. Winter is a former FBI profiler who now works freelance, hunting down serial killers all over the world. In this book, the fourth in the series, he arrives in Vancouver to work on a very unusual case.
Three years ago, on 5 August, the wife of Canadian millionaire Nicholas Sobek was killed by a bomb in her own home. Investigators initially thought her husband might have been involved. However, on that same date each year another woman has died in exactly the same circumstances. The killer is nowhere near at hand and does not even control the explosion remotely. Each time, the bomb is set off unwittingly by a member of the family. This is a very different type of serial killer and there is only a small window of opportunity to identify and catch them before the trail goes cold again for another year.
Winter and the Canadian investigator working on the case, ex-cop Laura Anderton, have a bit of a mountain to climb as they are not working in an official capacity together with the police force. Instead, they have been hired by Sobek, the husband of the first victim, who is eager to get rid of any remaining speculation about his involvement in the crime. Perhaps he is even a little too eager to get his revenge upon the real criminal. And Winter is not convinced that Sobek does not have psychopathic tendencies himself. So what we get is a triple whammy including an exciting race against the clock, a cat-and-mouse game between killer and profiler, and the competition between private investigators pitting their brains against the not entirely cooperative police. And, the added bonus is that Winter is keeping tabs on any suspicious activity on the part of his client.
This can easily be read as a standalone. Winter’s back story as the child of serial killer is fascinating but not the main focus of attention in this particular novel and runs as an undercurrent through all the books. What is really refreshing and unique about this story is that we have no clichéed serial killer here, who taunts the police deliberately and leaves ever bigger clues as if he/she is hoping to get caught. This is someone who really wants to stay in the background and be the quiet man referred to in the title. The detectives have very little information to do their job.
What with all the fast-paced running around from one potential witness to the next and frantic examination of the tiniest clue, there is not much room left for character development. Winter himself has hidden depths and Anderton is sympathetic, down-to-earth and unfairly dismissed because of her obsession with the case, but the secondary characters come across as a little flat. Nor is there much sense of place. The story could be set in any North American city, although there is an interesting comparison of gun control in the US and Canada.
However, in terms of plotting and suspense, The Quiet Man cannot be faulted and Carol is to be commended for injecting new life into the serial killer sub-genre. It certainly lives up to the ‘toe-clenching, nail-biting’ endorsement from SJ Bolton on the front cover.
The Quiet Main is only 98p on Kindle as we post this review. For more fictional serial killers, have a look at this top 10 list.
Faber & Faber
CFL Rating: 4 Stars