The surface question of this book is "Who is killing these people?" but as a book of layers, readers who choose to dig down further find other questions, many of which will be uncomfortable. Like it's antipodean counterpart, Dust off the Bones, we are seeing an emergence in crime fiction of narrative which deeply engages with crime. Not just the crime that propels a reader to turn the page to find out who dun it. Rather crime that is rooted in great injustices, crimes of nations and states, crimes for which no one person can be jailed, so we can easily say justice is done and move on. Crimes which are so large, that they ripple throughout history, and on the level of time are still present, happening and, ongoing, before our very eyes.
Mead's central charctor, John Spector, is the magician who helps the police unravel, this fiendishly difficult murder. As a conjuror he is perfectly placed to understand the art of illusion and distraction, and fits wonderfully well into the narrative. However, we learn little about who Spector is, and how he has come to be assisting the police, leading his presence to be essentailly the third mystery of the book.
Creature X is ultimately trying to entertain, rather than change the world, an egoistic conceit to begin with, and sometimes, as long as it is done mindfully, and conciously of impact of steriotypes entertainment for it's own sake is enough. And perhapse, while writing a hunt for a mythological creature, Dupuis has managed a few blows in getting rid of other dinosaurs altogether.
With the last chapters we look at how Esther's disaperance came to shape their future lives, and became woven into their emotional foundations of those involved. Genuinely, I wept, and who out of us would not weep when we faced with the great tragedy of all human lives, that even when the blissful moments of childhood are infrequent, it is a state we all yearn for, but will never be able to return to, exiled from it as we are by the knowing that we sought, and the knowing which is thrust upon us.
By trying to inhabit both the best of true crime and crime fiction Chizman displays an admirable amount of creative ambition and playfulness. Of course some of the best work in true crime comes is in the first person, and to truely inhabit that position he has to write as himslef. There is the added bonus that this lends great authenticity to the time and place, but this is perhapse at the expense of the telling the story, and it feels to me that in this novel at least everything should be in greater service to the story.
This week Mairi is talking to CJ Cooper, author of The Book Club, and The Verdict. They talk about jury's, rape cases, the necessity of acknolwedging female violence, writing advice and much more. CJ's two books are availible in the TCF bookshop along with her recommendation for listeners, If I Can't Have You, by Charlotte …