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I came across this in the library and recognised the name, which was confirmed by the comment on the cover: 'From the author of A Quiet Belief In Angels a Richard & Judy Book Club selection' on the cover. I couldn't remember too much about Ellory's writing style, and whilst it wasn't the best crime novel I've ever read, it was still enjoyable.
The Anniversary man opens by introducing us to John Costello in 1984, a teenage boy living in New Jersey City. He meets up with a girl he likes, has since come to believe he loved, when a stranger enters the scene. Calling himself the Hammer Of God, he takes a hammer to the girl and kills her, leaving Costello for dead. Except John doesn't die, and the book swiftly moves forward 20 years to see him as a crime researcher at a newspaper.
Side-lining this is a spate of new murders, none of which do the cops have a clue about how to solve. That is until the newspaper draws lines between them and suggests that they are in fact copycat killings of past murders, and furthermore, that they are all linked and carried out by the same serial killer. How do they draw such inferences that even the cops have been unable to? Because of John; the last 20 years have seen him try to come to terms with what happened to him, learning about killers and victims, with his skill for remembering names and numbers storing details of serial killers with precision.
Without giving too much away, the rest of the book focuses on detective Irving, assigned to the cases, struggling to piece together bits of the puzzle to find the killer before more vics become statistics. With the help of John, and the co-operation of Karen Langley, who works at the paper, the cops try to keep the investigation under wraps to prevent widespread public panic. But without leaving any trace as to his identity and the body count rising, can they find the killer before he strikes yet again?
At first, this book seemed a bit muddled; the newer murders were described and details, names and dates were thrown out but it didn't have much rhythm to keep me reading along intently. It took a while for Irving to then shine out as the detective protagonist, which helped to give the plot and readability a direction and path with which to follow.
There was a reasonably good depth of character that was eventually developed, including Irving's relationship fleeting between like and hate with Karen Langley. This helped to identify with characters, to form our own opinions and suspicions, and to empathise. However, I thought this could have been stronger and would have increased the level of readability somewhat.
The plot itself wasn't anything too new, but I liked the smaller details. For instance, reading about John and his idiosyncrasies, such as obsessive counting and organization. I didn't find the conclusion as satisfying as I had hoped, so that was a bit of a downer because the pace and clarity of the book had picked up around the half-way point.
Praise for the book comes on the back cover from the Guardian: 'An awesome achievement - a thriller of such power, scope and accomplishment that fanfares should herald its arrival'.
Would I recommend? I thought this book could have packed more of a punch and been more gripping at points, however it was still quite gritty and portrayed what I think is probably a fairly realistic representation of the police, the bureaucracy and the difficulty of hunting a killer. Once the characters and path were more clearly defined, I found this enjoyable to read, so I'm glad I have it my time.
452 pages over 79 chapters