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==Synopsis of the book:==
Dr Maurice Simnal is a Psychologist in his late 30's on the verge of divorce. He is at the top of his profession and as a result he is asked to assess a patient currently in the Psychiatric Department in Kempton Hospital. His patient Humphrey Sweet is in there having been found guilty of murdering three school girls. Simnal job is to find out if his patient is mad or just plain evil.
The Doctor quickly forms a bond with the man, who he find difficult to like and realises he is trying to manipulate him. Not only that he finds he has been trying this with the other inmates and the Nurses within the unit. Humphrey is keen to improve his standing within the Unit and to do this he believes that he must admit to all his other crimes. By admitting these crimes he will be considered by other inmates as a more important and evil person and go up in their estimations.
He uses Dr Simnal for this and starts to share the details of his exploits. Sweet is a serial killer who kills all different people, with different backgrounds and all over the country. This means until now the Police had never see a pattern and do not associate the murders with him. Sweet admits to having multiple personalities and Dr Simnal must unravel what this evil man is telling him and find out if he belongs in the Hospital or in the Prison.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
My overall thought about this was that it was a good chilling mystery. In fact when I think hard about it there were only a couple of things that disappointed me about it, but for me they were important things. So for me it was good rather than great, interesting rather than absorbing. That said I did manage to read this book from cover to cover over a wet weekend so it can't have been that bad!!
This is my first experience of Peter Turnbull's novels and I was on the whole quite impressed by what I read. As very often I find when I try a new author that initially I don't like their style of writing or find their characters difficult to relate to. But I am pleased to say here I had no such problem and find I could enjoy the author scene setting and descriptions of how the characters felt.
Although I must admit to being surprised that the author had written so many successful novels. The only reason for this is because I had not heard of him before and I had not heard anyone comment either good or bad on his work. On this showing for me it is easy to see why his books sell so well as he can tell an unusual story plenty of mystery within it. I found from the first instant I heard about Humphrey Sweet I wanted to know more about him and what made him into this wicked serial killer.
Once I had decided that I was looking for a book by Peter Turnbull, my next decision was which one, as there were several to choose from. I picked this one for several reasons the most obvious one being I thought it was an unusual title. Especially when you discover that Humphrey Sweet is anything but sweet more like evil, but that is just his name!!
Before deciding one-way or the either, I checked out the summary on the inside cover. I was in truth surprised it was not on the back cover as that was basically left blank. All it told you there was if you like Ian Rankin or John Harvey you would like this author too. Anyway back to the summary, this was excellent; it was three good size paragraphs full of detail that made the book sound terrific. After reading that I knew this was the book for me.
I am sure I have mentioned this before but I like a story that starts from Page 1 by that I mean one in which you as the reader feel you are immediately involved in the story and for me this one had that attribute. As it was a good way to introduce two important characters such as Simnal and Sweet with their first meeting, as I felt they were sizing eachother up and learning about one another as I was learning about both of them. I also thought it was ingenious the way Sweet now wanted to admit to his other crimes and he was going to use Simnal for that purpose.
The pace of the story at this stage seemed good, and I was intrigued to know more about the crimes Humphrey Sweet committed. I thought using the Doctor with this information was a good way of finding the truth. And I liked the way the Doctor reacted when he felt Sweet was manipulating him and getting him to do things he did not wish to do. It showed the man's power and why he had always managed to make those around him do exactly as he wanted them to do.
As part of his research Dr Simnal looked into Sweet's past and visited his parents to try to understand more about the man. This brought some traits that he was to use later in his life, as he found out his Mum and Dad pandered to his every whim. Giving this spoilt only child everything he wanted and finding out he was a bit of a loner at school influencing younger children to create mischief but never being caught himself for anything.
However somewhere in the story I started to lose interest. I think it was probably after the fourth extra murder that Sweet admitted to. I just started to tire of the same thing happening time after time. It was fortunate for me that Dr Simnal's private life was interesting and gave me something else to focus on.
Although towards the end of the story, the author really got it back on track. I was hoping for some excitement and mystery and I certainly got it. My only criticism as I really enjoyed this was why put it is late in the story? For me it was also too short, it could have been covered in much more detail, which would have made it even better. As it was it almost felt like an after thought and it was so much better than that.
As a result I found the concluding chapter very good and it left me with a satisfied feeling at the end of the book. It even had an epilogue, although it was only a page and a half long. It rounded of the story well but failed for me to answer one important question.
For me this was an unusual story, I usually like crime thrillers where someone has been murdered and the Police have to piece the clues together. But in this story the man was admitting to the murders and the Police just had to find the bodies, so from that respect it was an unusual approach the author used and one I thought was well worth exploring.
What I particularly enjoyed was a couple of lead characters that were certainly out of the ordinary. Firstly, there was Dr Simnal, who I found easy to understand and relate to. I was always keen for him to uncover more about Humphrey and get to the bottom of his personality. I thought it was a great idea to bring in Dr Simnal's private life, as that was both interesting and complicated, which I thought added to the quality of the story and provided at times a little light relief.
This billing he shared with Humphrey Sweet the serial killer. In many ways he was a complete contrast to Simnal, being evil and manipulative of everyone he comes into contact with. While I disliked him I had a sort of grudging respect for how he had been clever enough to fox the Police for many years, until he decided he wanted to be caught. I thought the author described him, his actions and his personality really well and I felt I was in the interview room when he had his meeting with Simnal and I could almost smell the evil.
The other characters within the story played minor roles. Although I must admit I would have liked to know more about Dr Ruth and Kathleen Hood as they sounded fascinating characters. Especially Ms Hood who had been visiting Sweet at the Hospital for well over a year. It would have been good if some of the story could have been written from their viewpoint.
The novel's length for my money was too short. I would have liked the final few chapters expanded; this would have created more suspense and excitement if it were developed further. As the final had a feel about being rushed and not as polished as it could have been.
I think having read this story; I will certainly read another from this author. As for me this was quite an unlikely and in some ways thoughtful story. I liked the author's ideas and felt his writing style was informative but quite relaxed. I would like to judge this book against another of his as I think there is a lot to enjoy and appreciate in his work if this story is anything to go by.
Overall this novel gets the thumbs up from me. It certainly is not the best mystery I have read this year, but I did like the concept behind the story and the majority of its execution. My criticism's would be I felt it become a bit mundane in the middle and there was little to inspire the reader, just bodies being discovered!!
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
About the author: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/t/peter-turnbull
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
@CPTDANIELS July 2010