Book review: The Anniversary Man

The Anniversary Man
A literary crime fiction novel with more heart than the rest and a serial killer to end all serial killers.
The Anniversary Man by R.J. Ellory (Orion)
Any one who knows me, knows that I don't go out of my way to read crime thrillers. With all the violence that surrounds us on a daily basis, I simply choose not to read books that delve into topics that I simply just long to escape from, even if it's just for a little while. (I read this when I took a bit of a break from reading young adult fiction over the past 3 weeks)

With that being said, I can honestly say that I can't for the life of me be sure why I ended up reading this book, but for what it's worth, this book ended up being one of the most surprising novels I've read this year so far (the other book surprising read being The Road to Absalom, which I'll post very soon). Not only that, but it's also one of the most intelligently written crime fiction novels that I've read in a while.

It's 1984 and 16 year old, young and impressionable John Costello meets the beautiful 17-year old Nadia.  The two connect instantly and for the brief time that they are together, John is the happiest he has been in a long time.

But as all things go, nothing lasts forever.
His life comes to an abrupt halt and is irrevocably and irrecoverably changed when he and Nadia become victims of a violently deranged serial killer known as The Hammer of God.

Nadia is brutally murdered while John miraculously survives.

22 years later a still broken, damaged and reclusive John (who has since withdrawn from the world and hides in his apartment for the most part) finds himself working for a newspapers as a crime researcher. 

Having been the victim of a heinous crime, there is no one who understands the behaviour and patterns of serial killers better than he does.

When a new spate of seemingly unrelated murder sprees start, Detective Ray Irving, one of New York's finest investigators is left feeling bewildered, frustrated and ready to enlist the help of anyone who knows anything that could assist the New York precinct with their case.

And who better than John Costello?

Despite Ray's suspicions, it's John who connects the dots and sets the ball rolling for what could be New York's biggest serial killer case they've had in the longest time. But, the book isn't called the Anniversary Man for no good reason and in a bitter twist of irony, every thing that John may have spent his whole life trying to survive through and overcome, puts him into the crossfire again and affects his life and those around him profoundly.

The Anniversary Man, is simply put, the best written crime fiction novel I've read in a long time. It's an unmitigated feast of a novel, employing good research and draws on everything that is psychologically terrifying about the dark and despicable side of human nature.

The book's prose is, simply put, like a danse macabre - the engaging writing flirting with the horrors of violent, but well-described murder scenes. The characters are solid, flawed and incredibly real and showcases, what I think many crime fiction novels lack: real, painful and tortured emotions.

I loved this book so much that I'm going to go hunting for more of his books.

Give it a read - if you're a fan of literary crime fiction novels, you won't be disappointed. I promise.  
My rating: 4/5

On a last note, my next review is going to be either Lauren Kate's Fallen or Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. Not sure which to post first though. I think I'll try for both :)


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