THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R.J. Ellory
“He recognized more of the madness with each killing, each instance of unmitigated brutality perpetrated by one human being against another. Sometimes, despite all he had witnessed, he found himself still staggered by the sheer inventiveness applied to the demise and destruction of identity and individual. And he had learned that irrationality could not be rationalized.”
Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (JUL 10, 2010)
In R. J. Ellory’s The Anniversary Man, John Costello is sixteen when his life changes irrevocably. An unidentified assailant brutally attacks him and his girlfriend, Nadia, and although John survives, something in his soul has been shattered. Twenty-two years pass; he has somehow moved on and works as a researcher for a New York daily newspaper. He has his quirks, including a case of OCD, a tendency towards reclusiveness, and an encyclopedic knowledge of and fascination with serial killers. John’s past comes back to haunt him when a copycat starts replicating old crimes. As the number of dead bodies climbs, the police are under enormous pressure to identify and stop the perpetrator.
Ray Irving, a twenty year veteran in the New York City Police Department, is the unlucky detective who is assigned to investigate a succession of murders that may or may not be related. Irving is a loner and a workaholic. He shares these traits with Karen Langley, Senior Crime Correspondent for the New York City Herald. The two clash over the newspaper’s right to reveal information about the killing spree. Irving, whose girlfriend died suddenly, and Langley, a divorcee, are interested in one another, but tempers flare when they realize that they are operating at cross purposes. Meanwhile, Ray’s boss is impatiently demanding results and, in desperation, Irving turns to an expert, John Costello, to help him see the big picture.
What distinguishes The Anniversary Man is its realism. Irving and his colleagues expend a huge amount of time tracking down leads, but they are outsmarted at every turn. Progress is painfully slow because of a lack of forensic evidence, an abundance of red tape, and a shortage of manpower. It is rare that fictional police officers are made to look this clueless, but in a way, it is refreshingly genuine. After all, some killers literally get away with murder for years, leaving the cops baffled. Ray Irving’s rocky relationship with Karen is also convincing, since these two battle-scarred people cannot successfully bond when they are so emotionally distraught. Costello remains a cipher, although one cannot help but empathize with a man who, in many ways, never grew up. Ellory does not patronize us. In fact, in this book he makes a thought-provoking statement about the incomprehensible nature of evil, a concept that can be described and discussed, but never completely understood.
One quibble is the characters’ overuse of profanity; too many four-letter words quickly lose their shock value and serve as an unwelcome distraction. In addition, the narrative is a bit too long and drawn out; a bit of streamlining would have been helpful. Finally, a word of caution is in order. This story is not for the squeamish, since it makes specific references to horrific acts of slaughter. The Anniversary Man is a depressing but compelling novel about the profound damage that ruthless predators inflict on their prey.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 13 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Overlook Hardcover; 1 edition (June 10, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||Not Yet|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||R.J. Ellory|
|EXTRAS:||Independent review of The Anniversary Man|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:|
- Candlemoth (2003)
- Ghostheart (2004)
- A Quiet Vendetta (2005)
- City of Lies (2006)
- A Quiet Belief in Angels (2007; September 2009 in US)
- A Simple Act of Violence (2008; June 2011)
- The Anniversary Man (2009; June 2010 in US)