The Dead, by Ingrid Black

>> Friday, August 12, 2016

TITLE: The Dead
AUTHOR: Ingrid Black

PAGES: 416

SETTING: Contemporary Dublin
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: Starts a series

Five years ago, the serial killer known as the Night Hunter vanished without trace after murdering five women. Now another killer claiming to be the notorious Ed Fagan is back prowling the streets of Dublin in search of new victims - but Saxon, former FBI agent turned true crime author, knows that it can’t really be him. Joining forces with Detective Superintendent Grace Fitzgerald of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Saxon soon finds herself in danger as the body count starts to rise and old secrets come to light.
Ingrid Black is a writing team made up by married couple Eilis O'Hanlon and Ian McConnel. I came across this novel after reading an article written by O'Hanlon last year, after the book had been plagiarised. The article itself was interesting, but I thought the book sounded even more so, so I bought it.

Saxon is a former FBI agent who used to specialise in serial killers. After writing a tell-all book that destroyed her relationship with her former colleagues, she ended up in Ireland, advising the Dublin police in the case of the Night Hunter serial killer. That case ended abruptly when main suspect Ed Fagan seemingly fell off the face of the earth. Saxon stayed, though, not least because of her relationship with Detective Superintendent Grace Fitzgerald.

And then, five years later, Fagan is back. Apparently. Someone is sending letters to the papers claiming to be him and directing the police to bodies, which start piling up. The only problem is, Saxon knows it can't be Fagan. Because five years earlier, she killed him.

This started out well, but ultimately foundered. The case was interesting enough in premise, but the execution of the investigation never really gelled. I think the problem was that we were seeing it from the point of view of Saxon, who although she's getting all of what's going on through her relationship with Grace (and that felt a bit off -this is the boss's lover who's been brought in as a consultant. Even though she's obviously got very relevant and valuable experience, it felt a bit Roarke-ish, and that has never sat well with me), is outside the investigation and doing her own thing. And it feels like she's basically flailing about, happening upon clues almost at random. There's no plan or coherence in how she investigates.

I think the bigger problem is that I disliked Saxon and had very little respect for her as an investigator. She is incredibly cavalier about doing stuff that could potentially get Fitzgerald into huge trouble, like breaking into the home of someone she suspects. She doesn't particularly think about it or every acknowledge the potential consequences of what she's doing on Fitzgerald. She also withholds the very crucial information of Ed Fagan being dead, even though she sees that quite a lot of effort on the police's part is being wasted -effort that, if well-directed, could have had a positive effect on the investigation.

There are also loose ends. At one point Saxon becomes convinced that Fagan must not have operated alone, and gives really compelling reasons for thinking so... compelling enough that I was shocked she hadn't considered that earlier. That gets dropped completely in the resolution.

And oh, that resolution. That's when my respect for Saxon hit rock bottom. This might be a bit spoilerish, although it does not reveal the identity of the killer, so be warned: Basically, what happens is that Saxon realises who the murderer must be, and confronts the person, armed with a gun. And then this person basically goes "oh, well, let's have a drink and I'll tell you all about it" and starts serving her scotch -which she drinks!! Refill after refill. And what do you know, the scotch has poison in it. Seriously!

The other disappointment was in the personal stuff. The romantic relationship between Saxon and Fitzgerald had the potential to be really interesting. Unfortunately, there's really not much there about that. They practically don't interact, other than talking about the case. There's really no chemistry, and the reader is given no clue to what they see in each other and why they're together.

This is all really too bad. The plot really had potential and the authors do succeed in creating a very atmospheric setting. Unfortunately, the story execution and the characters didn't deliver.



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