Backlist Gem: THE HUNDREDTH MAN by Jack Kerley

hundredth-man-newA pathologist’s lab.  An odd and potentially inexplicable death and a weird solid object in the victim’s bowel.  This is all pathologist Alexander Caulfield needs – being, as he is, on the threshold of all he’s ever dreamed of: professionalism, respectability, a decent wage.  And then suddenly Caulfield is brutally murdered with no indication as to a motive or the culprit, bar a small tattoo reading ‘warped whores’ and his dismembered body.

Renowned for solving a series of brutal murders the year before, Detective Carson Ryder is first on the case, but as each new corpse arrives, beheaded and branded with bizarre tattoos, Ryder realises that this is no ordinary serial killer.

And when a secret deeply buried in Ryder’s past threatens to come to the surface, Ryder realises that the killer’s target may not be as far away as they first believed…

Intricate, piercingly well-drawn characters and frustratingly Byzantine police structures drive along the plot and frustrate the solving of the crime, lacing the novel with tension.  The denouement, when it comes, is brilliantly intricate and gets to the heart of police corruption – leaving Ryder’s emotions in tatters and shattering his trust in those around him.

Not many people can do psychological tension quite as well as Kerley, and The Hundredth Man is no exception.  Pathologist and alcoholic Ava Davanelle is one of the most finely drawn characters I’ve read in a long time and her love-hate relationship with Ryder feeds the reader with emotional tit-bits throughout.  Alongside this, Kerley also parades a set of flawed characters we never quite know whether to trust until the very end.

I defy anyone who reads this first Ryder novel not to want to follow him further in the series…

Other Kerley novels include: The Death Collectors; Little Girl Lost; Broken Souls.  Ryder’s latest outing, Buried Alive, publishes on 14th October.

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