Adam Bird


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Monday, 7 September 2009

The Anniversary Man

Book Review

Early autumn is seemingly a great time for hot literature releases, with Roger Ellory's "The Anniversary Man", being followed by Dan Brown's highly anticipated "The Lost Symbol" and the final instalment of Stieg Larssons Millennium Trilogy, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest". I pre-ordered all three a while ago via Amazon and was attempting to save all of them for our week in Turkey next month.

However, this weekend, sandwiched either side of the holy matrimony and alcohol infused celebration that was Carly and Reaso's wedding, I spent some time in a much darker place, New York, in the presence of a man named Ray Irving as he liaised with John Costello, a survived victim of a serial killer known as "The Hammer of God" murderer. A place which I don't think would have been suited to the tranquillity and warmth of an Aegean odyssey.

I have eulogised over the works of Roger Ellory previously within the confines of this blog, and whilst doing so have possibly exhausted my repertoire of superlatives in the process. You would be forgiven for thinking that I have developed a minor fixation about an author who is making waves in the world of literacy and crime fiction in particular. But having spoken to Roger via email on several occasions my championing has been well received and enthusiastically encouraged.

Having received my package containing Ellory's latest novel, "The Anniversary Man" on Friday I settled down with a cup of coffee, Oliver asleep, all the boys were out toasting Reaso on his pending marriage and Stephanie was keeping Carly's thoughts occupied whilst mine were transported into the darkest recesses of a man's imagination, intertwined with the true life facts of some of history's notorious evils.

This isn't a celebratory book glamorising the deeds of those who have committed heinous crimes, instead, it's a homage of the darker elements of human nature and an exploration of those people who have had their life's changed by the wanton acts of a select few.

Although a thriller, containing the correct ingredients tightly packed with the usual twists, turns and edge of your seat excitement that a good thriller needs in order to live up to it's name. The Anniversary Man, as in all Ellory books goes beyond the usual formula by having a protagonist that isn't perfect, that is fundamentally flawed and using a word that Ellory uses frequently, has idiosyncrasies that define his character and sets him apart.

Ray Irving, whom we follow throughout the novel, is a Police Detective that has been assigned a murder case. We meet him as a secondary introduction, after learning the fate of John Costello, a sixteen year old boy whose budding relationship is ruined one night by a serial murderer going by the name of "The Hammer of God" killer. Although attacked and left for dead, Costello survived, but his girlfriend became another haunting statistic, which changed Costello's life irrevocably.

Costello, now a grown man, but not the man that he would have become had fate not played it's card, and Irving, the man in charge of a murder investigation become allies, or do they? All part of the web of intrigue and mystery as the book progresses.

Recalling the real life acts of America's worst, Ted Bundy, The Zodiac, The Sunset Slayers and John Wayne Gacy, it is clear that Ellory has researched fastidiously the details to create a tale that is clever in it's execution (excuse the pun!), as previous serial killings are replicated by a "copycat killer" and the source of Ray Irving and John Costello's plight. But it's in the re-creation of the Amityville Horrors which make for terrifying reading. The front cover contains a quote by Cliver Cussler "The perfect author to read late into the night", but for those of a weak disposition you may want to wait until daylight before reading that particular scene!

Whereas A Quiet Believe in Angels, and to a degree, A Quiet Vendetta are evocative passages through time, with prose that is more akin to poetry and containing a romantic undertone that isn't about love, but about a sense of being and belonging, comparing The Anniversary Man with those wouldn't do either of them any justice, they are different novels completely, even though they fall under the "crime thriller" genre.

It is for that very reason which makes Ellory so special and the reasoning behind my superfandom! Making a crime novel, that is more than a crime novel, exploring the human reaction to the implications of man's actions, whether it be political (A Simple Act of Violence) or in this case psychological. Putting normal people in subnormal situations is Ellory's mantra, and lucky for us readers we get to go along for the ride!


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