The Death Watcher by Chris Carter

3 Mins read
The Death Watcher by Chris Carter front cover

The world of crime fiction is a broad church, featuring everything from snooping grannies in sleepy rural hamlets to blood spattered serial killers, and everything in between. At the darkest end of that spectrum comes Chris Carter, whose Robert Hunter series is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Consequently, as a fan of a good old gory story, I was first in the queue for The Death Watcher, its stark red, black and white cover (with the shocking addition of baby blue!) setting things up nicely for what Carter’s army of followers know will be found inside. For the uninitiated, Hunter works for LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit, and this time he and his partner Carlos Garcia are up against someone who is very clever indeed. And evil, oh so evil.

As the book opens, our perpetrator is hard at work in some unspecified place that’s tricked out like an operating room, maliciously making his wildest dreams become reality on a man whose last bleary memory is of possibly drinking too much at a bar. Wrong. Instead, Shaun Daniels was drugged and brought to this dark and dismal place and is in the hands of someone who gets his kicks out of torturing his victims while they are awake, then allowing them to die a slow, agonising death as the neuromuscular blocking agent he administered earlier begins to wear off.

He’s a killer who is meticulous and ultra careful, someone who finds it easy to fly under the radar and pursue his own nefarious objectives. Which explains somewhat why the body that comes to the attention of Hunter and Garcia is something of a conundrum. He’s a hit and run victim with lots of horrible injuries – so why is Ultra Violet Crimes taking an interest? Ah, because an autopsy has revealed that the poor man didn’t perish because of being run over. He died of hypothermia. In California. In the height of summer.

Something isn’t right, and at last Shaun Daniels is getting the scrutiny he deserves. But then another man dies of multiple injuries after jumping from a bridge… Or, seeing as he was dead before he ‘fell’, was he pushed? Our nameless killer made a mistake with this one – but who knew a automobile geek could come in so handy as a witness? It’s those teeny tiny little sparks of inspiration that make Chris Carter’s books such an enjoyable read.

Carter’s background in criminal psychology shines through all the blood letting and gut-churning violence, which is graphically portrayed at times but never in a gratuitous way. Instead, he takes the reader into the deepest, darkest recesses of the killer’s mind, uncovering their motivations and inspirations for a loyal audience that laps it up and bays for more. And then there’s Hunter, very much a loner outside of work but an intuitive genius when he’s on the job. He is perfectly balanced by Garcia, and it is great to see the sidekick getting a fairer crack of the whip in The Death Watcher.

This book is the 13th in the Robert Hunter series and its creator shows no signs of taking his foot off the gas and cruising. It is dark, chilling and full of clever little plot kinks designed to send the reader off on a wild goose chase – and succeeding. The fact that this is a story inspired by real events makes it all the more disturbing and the pages move by at a furious pace as Carter ramps up the tension. The search for a killer who is both clever and ruthless is smartly rendered and not without a surprise or two. In short, this is a Chris Carter classic. If you have the stomach for it, I suggest you grab a copy sooner rather than later.

You’ll find a very different take on a mass murderer in Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer.

Simon & Schuster

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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