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Death Of a Murderer


Death Of a Murderer

“As he walked, he noticed that he kept looking over his shoulder. He needed to be able to see his car, he realized, and the further he went, the greater this need became. He felt nervous, almost distressed.”

Even Billy Tyler, a seasoned policeman, is not insulated from the power a piece of land holds when a victim of violence has lain upon it. Lured by the pull of his curiosity, Billy visited the place where one of the bodies was discovered and found he could not control his thoughts. Some crimes are so unimaginably horrible that the mind struggles to make sense of them. Sometimes looking at a tangible part of it goes a long way toward understanding. Other times it doesn’t help at all.

Back in the ’60s, a number of tortures and murders was committed by a young couple tied to each other by their sick version of love. Now, after decades of incarceration, the woman has died. If anything, the country hates her more now than when she was alive. Maybe it’s because they know that she no longer suffers. Maybe it’s because their outrage has not yet run its course. Or maybe it’s because they’re scared of what love can do to a person.

Billy pulls a 12-hour shift guarding the killer’s body from morbid souvenir seekers and overzealous members of the press. He simply views it as a part of his job. His wife views it as a horrific assignment that Billy will not survive. She is convinced that the woman’s evil was so overwhelming that some of it remained after her death, and Billy risks being overcome by it during his long night in the same room. Billy waves off his wife’s worries. But in the morgue, he starts to have strange sensations and disturbing memories. He remembers what he did for love. Long ago. And more than once. The murderer’s ghost talks to him, prods him, even taunts him, almost as though she were listening in on his thoughts.

With time on his hands, Billy can’t help but wander down memory lane, in part due to the stories he has heard of the killing spree. As a young man, he had his own outlaw experiences, which he now seems compelled to revisit and analyze. Some are fond recollections, just a kid acting out. But others… He thinks of a time his daughter Emma, afflicted with Down’s syndrome, nearly drove him to the brink of violence. Emma, so sweet yet so maddening. As frightening to him, his wife admits to similar thoughts. Was the killer really so different from anyone else? Aside from acting on urges most people suppress, could she have been just like any number of people walking along the street? Merely a human being with human weaknesses, giving into her desires? A young woman in love, doing everything she possibly could to please her lover? Maybe that’s what scares Billy most. Will his shift never end?

DEATH OF A MURDERER isn’t so much a mystery as a catalyst to honest introspection. Reading where Billy’s mind takes him spurs one to think about events in one’s own life that, but for the intervention of a sane hand, could have spiraled into tragedy. This novel will quietly prod you to wonder what might have been. Its message is strikingly powerful, as is its stunning writing.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 29, 2010

Death Of a Murderer
by Rupert Thomson

  • Publication Date: August 12, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307278743
  • ISBN-13: 9780307278746