Wednesday 8 May 2024



'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.'

After I was about a third of the way into this book, I realised that I want my next writing to be in the first person. That desire has something to do with the quips and internal thoughts of Lou Archer, the private investigator protagonist of The Doomsters. I loved the way his descriptions and thoughts are so well outlined and feel that it's because it's in his own words that the crisp cutting edge really works. Which, I guess, gives a strong indication that I enjoyed this book quite a lot. 

It has a cracking opening. Carl Hallman, on the run from a psychiatric institution, knocks on the door and asks for help. Hallman is believed to be central to the deaths of his parents, but he has recently come into some information about the family doctor that has set alarm bells ringing wildly in his head. He needs help to delve further into the mire of his past in order to liberate himself from a personal torture. 

Archer persuades Hallman to return to the hospital for treatment, promising to work the case while Hallman continues to recover, only on the way back, Hallman knocks him out and steals his car. 

That would normally be enough to put a person off, but Archer is attracted to the man's desperation and to the sense that there has been an injustice somewhere along the way that needs righting. 

Cue a visit to the Hallman ranch. 

The police are out in force awaiting Carl's return. Though there's a policy to take Carl alive, Archer isn't so sure that will be the outcome. He sticks around to meet the other players in Carl's life: his loyal wife, his stoic brother, his sister-in-law and daughter, the family doctor (aka the sister-in-law's lover), the cops and some of the help. 

To further the complexity of the case, there's an element of personal involvement for Archer as the junkie who escaped with Hallman happens to be one of Archer's failed projects from way back. 

The whole murky pond is full of these sharks who appear to have their eyes on the same prize- the Hallman family fortune.

Needless to say, there's a whole lot of unpicking to be done. While at work, we get to explore the flaws of the family and, perhaps more significantly, the detective doing the digging, which makes this one hell of a journey.

The opening is terrific. The build-up gathers at a pleasing pace. Each individual scene is masterfully handled. Layers are peeled away and added with ease. The bleak explorations into the human condition have real impact. In all these respects, it's excellent. 

A few tiny issues. To my mind, there are so many strings to unravel that things became confusing at times and I had to think hard. And the denouement comes in the form of a big reveal, a huge exposition explaining everything away (much as this worked, it also left no room for the this reader's personal satisfaction of being on the right trail at some point along the way).

Lots to love, then, and much to reflect upon. 

And regardless of that ending, I'm definitely diving in to write in the first person when my next idea comes along.  


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