I get a lot of books sent to me. This is one of the great things about being a book blogger and though I have now been doing this for some four years, I still get a kick out of the thought that somebody is interested in what I think about a certain title. Most of the books I receive are those that I have asked for or those that publishers send me because they know what I like to read, so there are always surprises. Then there are the parcels of unsolicited books that arrive, exciting also as they are an unknown quantity and I know nothing about the authors et al.
These can prove to be of variable quality. I am no novelist or writer myself and have no pretensions to be so, but I can recognise good or bad writing when I see it and some books that come through my mail box are so poorly written or so trashy, I am staggered that they managed to find a publisher at all. I know that if these manuscripts arrived on my desk, they would be binned almost immediately.
BUT, and this is what is so great, every now and then you open a book you have no expectations of and that is it, you read the first page and know that this is going to be a goodie. You can just tell. The narrative is flowing, it is stylish, it is not trying to be something it isn't, it is just damn good writing and, what is even better, it is grammatically correct which means a great deal to me.
Well American Devil is one of these - a stonking read, a great thriller which had me pinned to my sofa for most of today. In fact, I was in my dressing gown until nearly noon so intent was I on finishing the story. OK, so what is it about? There is a serial killer on the loose in New York. He is targeting young, blonde and wealthy women and is killing them in a brutal and awful manner. He is running rings around NYPD, the investigation is headed up by a good old fashioned cop nearing retirement and this is out of his league. Cue return of a stock character, Tom Harper, the star maverick detective who is suspended after attacking a colleague who made insulting comments about his wife, Lisa, who had just left him because he was too involved in his job. OK you might think, here we go usual stuff - and you would be right, but the quality of the writing and the characterization of Detective Harper and the criminal psychologist and profiler, Denise Levene, who is there to keep an eye on him and to deal with his anger issues, is spot on and never tips into banality. Their dialogue is sassy and sharp and the two forge a partnership and friendship as they realise they need each other to trap the killer, the so called American Devil.
I am going to say no more about the plot or the story line as I have no intention of giving any clue at all as to the identity of the killer, the way he is trapped or the reason for his killing spree - I want you to go get this book and read it yourself. The grittiness and adrenaline rush that is New York is tangible and this is quite astonishing as the author is an English writer, albeit one who has been avid fan of American detective stories all his life.
Oliver teaches literature and lives in London and this is his first novel. It is also the first in a proposed series featuring Tom and Denise and I cannot wait for the next one. This is one of the best thrillers I have read in ages, tightly plotted, intricately planned, not a loose end or an unexplained action or clue anywhere, great characters, great pace, twists and turns aplenty which will lead the reader completely off the track (well, it did this one), and an exciting and thrilling climax which had me on the end of my seat.
I have read a lot of new thrillers this year, some good, some so-so but this one is the real thing, I have hit pay dirt out of all those books sent to me and it is going on my list of books of the year.