Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Review: BLOOD BROTHER by Jack Kerley


Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Detective Carson Ryder's sworn duty is to track killers down. He's never revealed the fact that his brother, Jeremy, is one of America's most notorious killers - albeit imprisoned. Now though, his brother's escaped and is at large in New York. With Jeremy the chief suspect in a series of horrifying mutilation-murders, a mysterious video demands Ryder be brought into help. What should be a straightforward manhunt couldn't be more different - or more terrifying. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game develops between Jeremy and the NYPD with Ryder in the middle, trying to keep his brother alive and the cops in the dark. But it's a game of life, death and deceit, a game with an unknown number of players and no clear way of winning ...

Detective Carson Ryder burst onto the scene in Jack Kerley's outstanding debut, THE HUNDREDTH MAN; a young upstart both admired and loathed by colleagues and superiors, having hitched onto the fast-track following a successful serial killer pursuit the year before – seemingly thanks to Ryder’s innate understanding of “crazies and freaks”. Kerley’s fourth Ryder thriller finds the young Alabama detective temporarily leaving behind the sweltering South. A mysterious video found at an appalling mutilation-murder quite literally calls Ryder to the bright lights and shadowed streets of New York City, where he battles hayseed prejudices held by city cops barely tolerant of his presence.

For three novels Ryder has solved despicable murders alongside nattily-dressed veteran partner Harry Nautilus, while occasionally consulting the imprisoned brother he’s long kept secret - notorious murderer Jeremy Ridgecliffe. Now Jeremy has escaped and Ryder finds himself trying to outrun an NYPD manhunt in order to keep his secret safe and his brother alive.

Once again Kerley spins a suspenseful tale peppered with vicious murders and exciting twists, although this time the twists not only upturn readers’ beliefs and expectations about this novel’s rapidly-evolving events, but also deliver surprising revelations about the throughline of the entire series thusfar.

However, Kerley outperforms many of crime fiction's plot-driven twist-masters thanks to the texture of his crime fiction; he  engages the reader with interesting characters, settings and themes, not just storyline swerves. Any twists and turns seem organic, realistically evolving from such elements rather than being author-imposed to distract from deficiencies in the storytelling.

An outstanding instalment in a highly underrated series; one of the best in contemporary crime fiction.

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