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GIRL 4
by Will Carver
Arrow Books, May 2011
354 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0099551039


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Inspector January David is having dreams; in each one a smiling man ties him to a chair and tortures him, leaving him to wake with all the clues he needs to prevent the death of another innocent woman at the hands of a serial killer. But he doesn't believe he's psychic, he doesn't believe in premonition, so he's ignoring the dreams and ignoring the clues. Then he is called to a crime scene in London, to a theatre where a woman has been found hanging naked and bleeding above the stage. It's only when he gets close to her that he realises she's still alive, and at the same time sees that it's his wife.

She is also Girl 4, the next in a line of victims killed in brutal, dramatic and differing styles by a killer they are no closer to catching now than they were when the murders began over a year ago. Only now they just need to wait for her to wake and she can tell them everything they need to know. Unfortunately, they still won't know everything.

The first thing to say about this novel is that it's written in the first person, present tense, using the voices of many omnipotent narrators, most of whom are dead. It takes time to get used to the style and some readers will be put off by it. Carver might have used the point of view and the tense to bring immediacy to the narrative, to involve the audience more intimately in the proceedings. But most of the story occurs after the fact; the police trailing many steps behind the killer, the dead women realising their mistakes far too late.

Another issue comes with the difficulty in having sympathy with any of the characters. Inspector David has a slightly pathetic feel to him, as if Carver doesn't actually like his hero. The victims are crass and don't seem to care about their own deaths. The two detectives on David's team are likeable enough but we know little about them and their backgrounds are never expanded. So the character we get to know best is the killer himself, who is worryingly appealing, beautifully written and definitely the strongest thing about the book. It is unfortunate that he is weakened, just like the novel, by the final and unlikely twist in the plot.

Despite all these pitfalls, and the uncomfortable brutality of at least one of the killings, this is one of those books that are difficult to put down. The narrative is fast-paced and the desperation of the hero to stop the perpetrator is shared by the reader. Carver is a talented writer. It is the plot, rather than the style, that lets this book down.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring writer who lives in South West England. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, June 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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