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Black Static

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The Late Review: The Killer In My Eyes

16th Nov, 2022

Author: Peter Tennant

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Italian Giorgio Faletti (1950 - 2014) graduated from law school and then worked, in not especially rapid succession, as a comedian, as a musician/composer, as an actor, and finally as a writer, with a degree of success in everything he turned his hand to. Published in Italy in 2004, his second novel The Killer In My Eyes (Corsair tpb) finally reached the UK in 2012 with this translation by Howard Curtis and now, another ten years after that, it's getting 'late reviewed' by me. Blame Brexit for the delay.

Having left New York's police force, Jordan Marsalis is about to take off on a cross country bike ride with no plans to return, and then his nephew, the artist Jerry Ko, is murdered, his body left posed in a way to resemble Linus, a character from the cartoon strip Peanuts. Jordan's brother Christopher, who is the Mayor of New York, asks him to take charge of the investigation. Another dead body posed as a cartoon character is found, but the police have little in the way of links until the arrival of Italian police officer Maureen Martini. She is in New York to have eye transplants, after an assault by a criminal seeking revenge for her shooting of his brother. The eyes she receives are those of Jerry Ko, which gives her a unique insight into the case. And then there is the input from Lysa, the mysterious woman renting Jordan's apartment.

It's difficult to know what to say about this book. I enjoyed it while reading, but with hindsight there is a lot that seems slightly off, and it's hard to discuss these plot shortcomings without the review descending into a quagmire of spoilers. Let's just say there is a hell of a lot going on here that depends on coincidence and plot convenience, while the horror trope having to do with transplanted eyes is entirely unnecessary as Jordan and Maureen work things out anyway regardless of her 'unique insight' - it just adds one more unlikelihood and to no real purpose other than to further undermine credibility. All that aside, the idea of a killer who poses his people like characters out of Peanuts is a strikingly original twist, and Faletti gives us a solid reason for this, instead of simply letting it be an oddity for oddity's sake. Personally though I think the killer would have just murdered his victims instead of going to such bizarre lengths and relying on the justice system to administer his coup d'etat. And, another cliché in a book riddled with them, at the end he delays killing his next target so that he can explain all his actions to the detectives and the reader.

On the plus side the three main characters are fascinating. Jordan, who has sacrificed everything for his brother, a man who is undeniably attractive to women, and who becomes romantically involved with Lysa in a thoroughly believable example of love overcoming prejudice. His methods as a police detective are intriguing, being one part intuition to two parts hard work, and they make his solving of the case convincing. Similarly Maureen is a strong woman; when we first meet her she witnesses her boyfriend musician Connor Slave shot dead and is raped, then faced with losing her sight. That she manages to overcome all this, while still bearing the scars and a lust for revenge, is testament to her character. Both she and Jordan have interesting families, with his brother the Mayor, her father a prominent restaurateur and mother a criminal lawyer, all of which adds yet more tension to the plot. Lysa is perhaps the most intriguing character, her introduction to the story showing how determined and ruthless she can be, has been forced to become, with witty rejoinders to all and sundry. The physical beauty that attracts Jordan and others, is the outward sign of her true nature, a beautiful person who has been forced by circumstances to take drastic steps to help herself.

A shout out also to the victims here - anarchic artist Jerry Ko, spoilt rich girl (and nymphomaniac) Chandelle Stuart, fake writer Alex, and decadent playboy Julius Wong. They embody ideas of decadence and privilege, people who have no moral qualms, who believe that everything is theirs by right, with the coda that without this jaundiced view of reality they might actually have amounted to something, particularly Jerry who had real talent. Finally it's nice at the end to have an understated but satisfying resolution to the plot strand involving Maureen's assailant.

There's a lot of good stuff going on here alongside the elements that are slightly naff, and in the final analysis I'd say it's a book that has its heart in the right place and is entertaining, but only as long as you don't think too much about the ways and means it uses to get where it wants to go.

 

 

 

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