Thursday, 13 November 2014

Death of a Murderer - Rupert Thomson


We all know who the murderer is. There's a photo of her on the cover. That photo. It's November 2002 and she's died in prison. Unlucky career constable Billy Tyler draws what is literally the graveyard shift, guarding the body in the hospital morgue, protecting the infamous woman from the press, souvenir hunters, the kind of vulnerable people who get worked up into a lather over crimes committed forty years ago. Billy's wife Sue, who's going through a difficult time, doesn't want him to do it. But Billy's former protege, now his superior, has asked him as a personal favour. And besides, where's the harm? The body's locked away in a drawer; he can't even look on the face.

Inevitably, the the hours round midnight, Billy's mind starts to wander. He comes from the same area as the murderers, he is the same generation as their victims. There are connections, parallels. Billy confronts his past, his life now.

Death of a Murderer is the only Rupert Thomson novel I have read. It won't be the last. The stunning premise, compressing so much emotional resonance into a twelve-hour shift; the central conceit, which I won't reveal here, leaving you to experience the jaw-dropping moment for yourself; and above all the prose - nothing elaborate, nothing overwrought, just simple, steady, everyday language transcribing the experience of life.

Superb and highly recommended.

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