” From what you’ve said, Luciana has no reason to fear any further misfortunes. The series of deaths, so close to her, must have been chance, a run of extremely bad luck. But doesn’t it strike you as unusual? ” (Ch.7, p.135)
The tension in The Book of Murder is like a magnetic field that pulls one right in from the beginning. The unnamed narrator, an Argentinian writer, gets a call from a former secretary, Luciana, whom he worked with ten years ago. She had always been the exclusive typist for the famous but reclusive crime novelist, Kloster, who happened to be away at a writer’s retreat when the narrator needed a secretary.
The distraught Luciana, stripped of her youthful charm and beauty, comes out of the blue and asks for help. She believes her life is in danger and claims that Kolster is punishing her because she sued him for sexual harassment, which led to a devastating personal tragedy for him—divorce and loss of his child.
All those dead—they’re innocent. This wasn’t meant to happen. This definitely was not meant to happen. It’s time to stop him. But it’s too late. I wouldn’t know how to. (Ch.11, p.181)
Against his will the narrator finds himself drawn to Luciana’s problems. Not only that her family died one by one, but also under circumstances detailed in Kloster’s books. Lifeguard is tricked to venture out to far-away water and exhausted. Parents died from consuming poisonous mushrooms. The narrator confronts Kloster, who he finds has a credible explanation for all of Luciana’s accusations.
I felt Kloster touch my elbow and signal for me to follow him. We moved a little distance away and he stopped and turned. He didn’t show any anxiety, sorrow or remorse, merely a hint of curiosity, as if he wanted to clear up one last intriguing detail. (Epilogue, p.210)
So the novel proceeds with volleys of belief and disbelief. I find myself winging between believing and disbelieving Luciana. Is she mad, paranoid, or completely insane? But how would one justify the eerie parallels between the real-life murders and the deaths featured in Kloster’s books? He is either completely innocent or he’s an extremely clever killer. The line between reality and deception ebbs away—and it’s really no clearer by the end. The Book of Murder keeps me reading, but the characters are neither engaging nor likable, the story strange and confusing at times. It falls flat about halfway through the end. It’s a well-written book, full of tense, foreboding language but a less than satisfying ending.
215 pp. Penguin Mystery. Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]