By Paddy Richardson (Penguin, 2008)
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
With her second foray into full-length fiction,
creative writing teacher and experienced short story author Paddy Richardson
delves into darkness. Avoiding the murder-centric plots of many in the genre,
she spins a tale based on a freelance journalist hired to write the biography of
a notorious serial rapist. Dunedin
Struggling solo mother Claire Wright is approached by a dodgy lawyer to pen the story of Travis Crill, a reviled sex offender. Wright’s need for money combines with growing curiosity to overwhelm her many qualms. She finds herself delving into Crill’s mysterious past, his victim’s anguish, and her own fears as she tries to complete a book even she doesn’t know why she’s writing. Increasingly, Wright wonders why Crill struck only once a year, how he knows so much about her, and why even from behind bars, he seems in control. So far, so intriguing...
Unfortunately, the promise of Richardson’s intriguing set-up is left a bit unfulfilled, undone by occasional plot holes, some less-than-deep supporting characters, an unsatisfying ending that barely avoids deus ex machina, and a protagonist that doesn’t really pull the reader along. For whatever reason, I just couldn't find myself that compelled by Claire Wright. While the book is enjoyable in parts, and there are some shining moments involving the character of Wright’s daughter, overall I was left disappointed, especially with what might have been. The pieces were there, and Richardson shows plenty of writing talent, but it just didn't all come together for me into a cohesive page-turner.
I will read Richardson's writing again though, just hoping for a bit more.
2.5 stars out of 5