Monday, September 23, 2013

Stav Sherez, A Dark Redemption

This second novel (and the first episode of a new series) is a "heart of darkness" story in both its present and its flashback sections. It begins like a serial-killer novel, but quickly turns into something else.

Beginning with a flashback, three young graduates decide to leave London for a holiday, and on a whim pick Uganda rather than India (where "everyone" is going). Once there, taking a wrong turn, they end up as captives of a militia. The narrative returns to this adventure/horror again at intervals. The "present" action concerns Jack Carrigan, one of the young men, now a Detective Inspector in London. He is in charge of the investigation of the brutal, sadistic murder of a young African student in her apartment. The police authorities, however, don't trust Carrigan and send a formerly disgraced Sergeant, Geneva Miller, to assist him and report on his conduct of the case.

African politics and violence are the main theme, even in the London narrative: in fact, the violence in London is more horrifying than the experience in Uganda (a least until a concusion that draws them together). The daily reality of a multi-cultural city is evoked particularly well.

The biggest strength of the novel is its anchor in the police procedural format. The story rocks rapidly along even through the frustrations of a lack of progress in the investigation. The characters (major and minor) are interesting and  believable. The scope of the author's ambitions never distract from the forward motion of the book: this is a solid crime novel with more heft and reach than the average. I'm particularly interested in see how Sherez will carry these characters forward in a sequel that doesn't rely on the "back story" of Carrigan so heavily. The characters have plenty of depth to explore, and a new story with different stakes promises interesting developments.

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