Too Many Murders

Posted in Books, Reviews by Suganth on May 17, 2011

A fast-paced murder mystery that is a fantastic light read even if it falters at the fag end

My first reaction after a cursory glance at the title of Colleen McCullough’s latest offering was one of doubt — could this turn out to be a case of too many murders spoiling the book? Thankfully, the author pulls it off nicely, though not remarkably. Set in 1967, when the Cold War had intelligence agencies in both the US and the USSR on tenterhooks, the story takes place in a small city Holloman where Carmine Delmonico is the police captain. Carmine is burdened with what should perhaps be a policeman’s worst nightmare — 12 murders in a single day, each different from the other and ranging from the docile (sedatives) to the gruesome (bear trap, rape and mutilation). As Carmine and his team, which includes his two assistants who are both in the running for a promotion and a very resourceful secretary, start digging into the murders, everything seems to suggest only one idea — were all the 12 murders planned by a single mind? Compounding the problem is a case of espionage at the local arms giant, Cornucopia (whose boss is among those murdered) and the presence of a spy codenamed Ulysses. Is Ulysses the mastermind behind the murders? At a time when it has become imperative for detective novels to have a protagonist burdened by personal problems, which authors wrongly feel makes the novel dark and gritty, it is quite a relief to find Carmine in a state of domestic bliss and makes for refreshing read. His second wife is completely in love with him, his daughter (from the first wife) totally adores him, and heck, he is even best friends with his ex-wife’s husband. Even at office, he is respected by his colleagues and is well-supported by his boss. McCullough’s language is quite crisp and she keeps the plot ticking along at a fair pace till the very end, where she, like a major character in the novel, slips, especially in the choice of the device to elaborate on how things happened. But, by then, you are satisfied with being taken on an engrossing thrill ride and are ready to forgive the lapse. And, she ends on an open note, leaving room for a sequel.

Copyright ©2011 Chennai Times

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