Killing Jericho – William Hussey

I’ve stayed away from serial killers over the last year or so. I’d got to the point where they were starting to bring back memories of Touch of Cloth where the police team are putting possible serial killer links on their board, ‘Shakespeare Deaths/ Grand National Winners/ Martin Clunes Vehicles/ Egg Dishes… ‘ So, with the Amazon description of William Hussey’s whodunnit for grownups (I say this because the author has previously written over a dozen novels, with a number of them for Young Adults)  which includes the following:’… a series of bizarre murders comes to light – deaths that echo a century-old fairground legend.’… I don’t feel it is giving anything away to say that this is a serial killer novel. But the premise of the protagonist fascinated me – a gay, disgraced former detective fresh out of jail, finding refuge in the traveller family working fairs: a life he abandoned long ago – and, I have to be honest, since reading Something Wicked This Way Comes as a pre-teen, I’m a sucker for any fairground based novel.

If the serial killer novel can feel overdone, the cop with a drink problem is also a familiar enough trope. Here we have a hero with substance abuse problem on steroids (or if not steroids, pretty much everything else). And while Scott Jericho, the protagonist here, is haunted by demons from a previous case that (amongst other things) he feels like a very different type of hero from your bog standard ‘world weary cop with a drinking problem’.

Here’s the official plot description (because hey, there’s people out there whose job it is to summarise/ tease plots and they do it much better than my ramblings):

Scott Jericho thought he’d worked his last case. Fresh out of jail, the disgraced former detective is forced to seek refuge with the fairground family he once rejected.

Then a series of bizarre murders comes to light – deaths that echo a century-old fairground legend. The police can’t connect the victims. But Jericho knows how the legend goes; that more murders are certain to follow.

As Jericho unpicks the deadly mystery, a terrifying question haunts him. As a direct descendant of one of the victims in the legend, is Jericho next on the killer’s list?

So, while this isn’t my usual sub-genre of crime these days, my enjoyment of this book reflects how well I think it works in the arena it is set in while recognising it isn’t a subject I would normally read is a testament to the author and the novel- that is; an interesting cast of characters, a striking killer motif, well written scenes and some cracking dialogue.

This is and isn’t an easy read – easy in the sense that I read it in two sittings, which gives an idea of the speed it zips along, not so easy in that some of the themes – particularly for those who find children in danger – are unflinching and never shied away from.

For those familiar with the serial killer genre/ sub-genre there are enough clues to narrow down potential suspects: I have to say, I have no problem with that compared to the ‘cheat reveal’ of too many serial crime novels of recent years. How the reader feels about the motif for the killings and the mechanisms required to make it all happen will depend on them – your mileage may vary as the adverts say. The novel itself is happy to reflect on its’ own ‘coincidences’ in a pseudo meta manner. Me? I had no problem with it.

Fans of this particular sub-genre will, I’m sure find a whole lot to like here, and fans of crime/ mystery novels in general will find much to enjoy in a new and interesting protagonist.

The author’s afterword suggests that there are going to be more books in the series and I’m intrigued to see where Hussey goes with it – the central character is intriguing enough to get me on board to see what happens next, and there’s definitely enough backstory and character there to allow this series to branch out to a wider set of cases/ experiences.

Killing Jericho by William Hussey is available now from Zaffre in Hardback, Audio and for just 99 of your English pence on Kindle.

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