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Violet Chambers becomes Daisy Wilson through an aromatic cup of tea, flavoured with Christmas roses.

Core of Evil by Nigel McCrery

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Part police procedural and part psychological thriller, there's a lot to enjoy in this very visual and rather disturbing book. The detective's synaesthesia provides an interesting subtext and the villain of the piece is truly a monster.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 1847243843

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"There are all kinds of horrible things in the Christmas rose," she said, watching to see whether Daisy could still hear her. "Helleborin and hellebrin are both like digitalis, which I've also used before, but there's saporin and protoanemonin as well. It's a very nasty cocktail."

And now Daisy has met her rather sticky - and graphically effluent - end, and Violet has become Daisy, Daisy sets her sights on a new town, a new identity and, most importantly, a new victim. Daisy has problems with her memory - the identities go back so far that sometimes she can barely remember who is she is now, let alone all the whos she's been before, and most certainly not the who with whom she began. She knows she must be careful and she knows that one mistake could see it all unravel. But she's meticulous and careful - and gruesomely good at what she does. In fact, nobody even knows she's doing it.

DCI Mark Lapslie is on gardening leave. Suffering from synaesthesia, he perceives noises as tastes and the disease went into overdrive some time back. It's left him utterly disabled, finding it impossible to function properly unless there's absolute silence. His wife has left him, taking their children with her - he couldn't stand to be around them anyway, what with the noise - and his career is in ruins. Called back to deal with a desiccated body found at the site of a road accident, he knows the case is probably his last chance to resurrect his job.

It's an alternate narrative - serial killer and synaesthete policeman turn by turn. So if you like a mystery in your crime reading, Core of Evil probably isn't for you. There is a conspiracy subplot for you to guess at, but the murderer's doings are all there in black and white. I rather like it this way - the tension is watching the inevitable collision of the two strands, and in wondering how it will all be resolved.

Daisy is a wonderfully gruesome creation. She's precise and careful and she plans her crimes well. She's reserved and typically English middle class and conservative - but the mask slips at the moment of murder and she takes the most horrible glee in her victim's death. It's so outre and awful that it's almost black humour. In fact, one of the press quotes in the front of the book says Arsenic and Old Lace runs wonderfully amok - and those are pretty much my thoughts too.

Lapslie is an interesting copper, in a traditionally police procedural way. He's in danger of being put out to pasture and in many ways it would be a welcome release. But the detective in him can't quite bear the thought and he applies himself to this case in a dogged and persistent but intelligent manner. He knows there's something bigger than the murder he's investigating behind the DCS's unhelpfulness, and he puts out feelers, but he doesn't let it get in the way of his search for the culprit.

I don't read much crime but I can't get enough of it on TV and perhaps this is why I thoroughly enjoyed this very visual book. In addition to having been a policeman himself, McCrery has some very successful credits in TV crime to his name, including Silent Witness and New Tricks. Core of Evil is absorbing and pacy, with an interesting policeman and a horribly gruesome murderess. What more could you want?

My thanks to the nice people at Quercus for sending the book. We also have a review of Tooth and Claw by Nigel McCrery.

Readers interested in the detecting will enjoy Singing to the Dead by Caro Ramsay or Dark Angels by Grace Monroe. A gruesome serial killer also pops up in Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham.

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Buy Core of Evil by Nigel McCrery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Core of Evil by Nigel McCrery at


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