J. A. Kerley- The Killing Game (Carson Ryder 9)

Product DetailsAfter a humiliating encounter with a cop, Romanian immigrant Gregory Nieves launches a vendetta against the Mobile Police Department, Alabama. Nieves can’t fight a department, so he selects one man who symbolizes all men in blue: Carson Ryder, the MPD’s specialist in bizarre and twisted crimes. Carson has never seen a killing spree like this one: Nothing connects the victims, the murder weapon is always different, and the horrific crime scenes are devoid of evidence. It almost seems he’s being taunted. Even laughed at. Carson doesn’t know it yet, but he is caught up in a sadistic game of life and death. And there can only be one victor…

I must confess to being quite the fan of this brand of serial killer thriller, and would definitely cite Jack Kerley as one of the most accomplished exponents of the genre along with Richard Montanari and Chris Carter. In this, the latest outing for the mercurial Detective Carson Ryder and sidekick Harry Nautilus, the series continues apace with a particularly screwed-up killer who definitely instils an uncomfortable feeling in the reader with his peculiarly scatological nature…

If you are a regular reader of Kerley there is much to delight you here, and once again he plunders the darkest recesses of his imagination to bring us a suitably depraved and imbalanced killer. Gregory Nieves, struggling with the weight of his sociopathic tendencies and involuntary bowel problems, yes, I did say involuntary bowel problems, is a great construct. Here is a man who draws on other people’s facial expressions, garnered from TV an magazine adverts, practicing them daily, to try and give the impression that he is in some way close to normal- not a premise I have come across in a book and that leads to some lovely  moments of humour. After a routine traffic stop that causes an extreme moment of embarrassment for Nieves, he declares war on the local police department, and naturally Ryder becomes a focus for our killer. As Nieve’s bizarre relationship with his own sister Ema comes to light and the disturbing nature of their childhood comes to light, it becomes apparent that Nieves is not the only problem for Ryder, as Nieves begins to exact his twisted revenge. Once again, Kerley has excelled in his characterisation not only constructing a truly creepy killer, but putting Ryder through the mill not only with his on-going challenging of his superiors, but also immersing him in a love triangle with a comely young student, and his long term on-and-off squeeze the brilliant pathologist Clair Peltier. As Ryder navigates the waters of office politics and affairs of the heart, along with determinedly pursuing a serial killer, there is much to hold the reader’s interest, and as always the interplay with Ryder and his larger than life partner, Harry Nautilus, remains a central strength of the book.

Yes, I would say the storyline is a little far-fetched and not the fare for the more delicate reader, with only a fleeting visit from Ryder’s intelligent and psychopathic brother Jeremy ( personally speaking my favourite character of the series overall), but Kerley just sucks you in completely, amidst the more nonsensical aspects of the plot and you enjoy the ride. The book ends with a tantalising prospect for a change of direction for our hero Ryder, so bring it on Mr Kerley. I can’t wait….

J A Kerley worked in advertising and teaching before becoming a full-time novelist. He lives in Newport, Kentucky, but also spends a good deal of time in Southern Alabama, the setting for his Carson Ryder series, starting with ‘The Hundredth Man’: http://www.jackkerley.com/

(With thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC – www.killerreads.com )

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