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Messiah - Boris Starling

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Author: Boris Starling / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      20.12.2012 23:07
      Very helpful



      Gory and bold but a great debut novel with some fantastic characterisation

      Having managed to get to the ripe old age of 27 without so much as touching an Xbox or anything like it, I found one unexpected bonus of Mr Rarr's imminent moving in was that he was bringing one with him - and thus I discovered LoveFilm when the Xbox moved in slightly ahead of the Significant Other himself.

      More particularly, I discovered the free-to-view archive of great TV that the service had to offer, and as someone with a weakness for a dark murder mystery, I was delighted to see the first series of Messiah, which had me hooked when it came out a good few years ago. Promising myself the treat of watching it as soon as I had time, I then stumbled across a copy of the original book by Boris Starling whilst doing a book trawl of a local charity shop.

      As someone who likes to both see the film and read the book - in either order - I found myself in the slightly unusual position of reading a book and being in the middle of watching the TV adaptation at the same time. At one point I didn't know which medium to use to reveal the ending, having not seen it for so long that I had genuinely forgotten that actual outcome (of course, my memory did pipe up as I become familiar with the story once more, but it was still a long enough period of time to enjoy the story unfolding once again).

      One aspect of why I enjoyed this book so much was that I could use the mental visualisation of the brilliant Ken Stott, who was perfectly cast as Red Metcalfe (apart from not having ginger hair), and I must say that the BBC adaptation of the book was both true to the book in most instances (the most obvious change being the decision to make Metcalfe's wife deaf being a notably unusual one) and a great reflection of the dark tone and frustration felt by the main characters. So, as someone who was already a fan of the TV adaptation, I found myself soon hooked by the book.

      The first effort by former journalist (and one-time Mastermind contender) Boris Starling met with massive acclaim and saw his epic thriller perform well in the bestsellers list.

      I think it is a testament to Starling's talent as a writer in this genre and the strength of the story that you can still buy this new on Amazon for over £10 - when popular writers like Dean Koontz are barely ever even stocked new any more. At the time of writing, this 296-page gripping tale has three in stock with Amazon and more are advertised as being on the way.

      ***THE PLOT***

      DCI Red Metcalfe has become known for being able to understand the mind of killers, his success making him one of the most well-known murder investigators in Scotland Yard. During a hot summer, he is called to the scene of a death - initially possibly a suicide, as the victim is hanged in his own home. But the scene also has a great deal of blood on show, and on closer inspection Red finds out why - the victim's tongue has been removed, before the death, and in its place a silver spoon has been inserted into the mouth of the victim.

      What initially is just one victim of an obviously very thorough and meticulous killer soon becomes two - he strikes again that night. But his method of murder has already changed; rather than stick to one clear methodology, the killer changes the means of death but two things remain the same - the removal of the tongue and the insertion of the silver spoon in the mouth of the victim.

      Having arranged a top-class, tight-knit team around him, Red tries to get into the mind of this unique and terrifying killer. However, as the man that the team name Silver Tongue continues to elude them and the victim count continues to rise over time, the methods of death both varied and at times unthinkably shocking, even the detective famed for being able to unravel the thoughts of a serial killer finds that he cannot get a handle on what makes his prey tick, what drives him to execute these precise, violent acts without leaving a single clue about his identity.

      As Silver Tongue continues to elude the team, mentalities and relationships fray, the case invades the lives of those chasing the killer, and Red Metcalfe starts to struggle even more with two of the most devastating events of his former life - one of which is a secret only he knows about.

      ***MY OPINION***
      I loved this book. On the strength of the "blurb" I would have been tempted to read it regardless of seeing the TV version years before - but I am glad that I had seen the TV adaptation as it allowed me to further enjoy what is already a great book with the visual aid of having seen, and started to revisit, the episodes that portrayed it.

      Red Metcalfe is a detective totally committed to what he does and his growing frustration, and how this exerts itself over his life, is well portrayed by Starling - indeed for a first fictional novel, I can't fault Starling's characterisation. The relationships between the small team who pursue this mystifying, frustrating and terrifying killer are well portrayed and convincing at all times. The murder scenes, told mostly as the team discover the victims, are both shocking but calmly recounted, as if being observed by someone used to murder scenes - but the resulting human reaction often stops the lead character of Red from seeming removed from compassion.

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading all 496 pages of this book and whilst it is not for the faint of heart, if you like a truly dark and disturbing thriller then I would recommend this read to you. Starling has crafted a world which you can become absorbed in as you watch the cat-and-mouse game unfold and the motivations of the killer become apparent, and then ending does not disappoint, with an element to the book that the adaptation lacked but that I feel was a truly strong ending.

      I wouldn't exactly want to read this again if I were living alone in a dodgy area with a naff lock on the front door (although with all the victims being male, I wouldn't have that much to worry about!) but if you can take your gory, gutsy thrillers then I suspect you might well enjoy this. Just be careful who you open the door to...

      Thanks for reading.


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  • Product Details

    London is in the grip of a heatwave: airless days, strange steamy nights and a killer stalking the streets. Wealthy men are being murdered, with no clues left behind, only corpses with silver spoons in place of their tongues.

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