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by Fergus McNeill
Hodder & Stoughton, September 2012
368 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444739611

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I'm not a huge fan of books featuring serial killers, so it was nice to be pleasantly surprised by this confident debut from Fergus McNeill. This is not a complex book, but it's well written and refreshingly free of the sort of ever-escalating and frequently wholly gratuitous nastiness that typifies all too many books in this genre.

The central premise of EYE CONTACT is a simple one. Robert Naysmith, on the face of it, is a respectable and wholly innocuous businessman if you ignore the borderline emotional abuse of his girlfriend, the devoted but somewhat suspicious Kim. But he likes to play a game, a game wherein if you are the first person to make eye contact with him after a specified time it will end in your murder. But there are rules to the game, and Naysmith is a man who likes rules. He gives his victims a twenty-four hour head start, during which he will make no move to seek them out, but after that, he will be relentless in his pursuit of them, and efficient in his methods of dispatch.

The murders themselves are described in a relatively detached manner, without undue blood and gore, but that does not make them in anyway less chilling, and the idea of being stalked by someone wholly unconnected to you apart from the most fleeting of contacts is extremely disturbing, something that McNeill makes full use of.

Naysmith's means of selecting his victims is so cleverly random that it necessitates some means of sowing the seeds of his potential downfall, but that is done subtly and equally cleverly, as harassed policeman, Detective Inspector Graham Harland, eventually learns. Harland, whilst being another one to add to the list of police officers with a tortured past, is a likeable character and his issues in the aftermath of the death of his wife in a car accident, before the story starts, never threaten to overwhelm the narrative. Even in the closing stages of the book, when Harland seems on one occasion to have been hit very hard with the stupid stick, the author does at least attempt to provide a plausible explanation for his lapse in intelligence.

The ending is as chilling as the rest of the book, and I can't decide if it is a set up for a sequel with the same characters or not. But even if it isn't, I'll certainly be picking up and future books by McNeill on the strength of one of the best debut novels I've read this year.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, October 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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