Tuesday 22 December 2015

Book Review: Jonathan Moore – 'The Poison Artist'

'The Poison Artist'

Jonathan Moore may not be a household name just yet, but judging from the first part of his “neo-noir” trilogy, 'The Poison Artist', it won't be long before the Bram Stoker Award finalist is. A sensory-exciting psychological thriller, 'The Poison Artist' exudes film noir atmospherics deep, dark, psychological mystery and disturbing detail. His style has the straightforward story-telling of Stephen King, around which the dark and demented details of Thomas Harris, and the dynamic tension of Hitchcock build a compelling universe of gripping prose.

The story follows
Dr. Caleb Maddox, a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a hard break-up and a chance encounter with an absinthe drinking woman named Emmeline, he becomes caught up in a hunt for a diabolical serial killer who is torturing his victims and dumping them in San Francisco bay. The closer he gets in the search for the mysterious Emmeline, the deeper he becomes involved with the investigation into the murders, and with every new revelation the more danger he finds himself in.

The prose is detailed, elaborate and rich in its depictions of everything from food and drink, to the sights and smells of the city. Surprisingly it lacked the level of gore that I was expecting, but this isn't a bad thing. It progresses at a nice pace, speeding up and slowing down like the score to a film in order to build tension. It is utterly compelling to read and the more we delve into the investigation and Caleb's search, the more disjointed and obsessive his point of view becomes. It genuinely feels as though you are following him on the path to a nervous breakdown, all the while very real dangers threaten to end his search prematurely.

One downside to the novel is the heavy focus on Caleb's obsession. Which is compelling and really pulls you in to the story. However he does come off as a little two-dimensional, and overly self-pitying at times because of it, and he could do with a little more fleshing out. The author does leave some things vague, and also there details of the plot can be somewhat obtuse as well and did require a little re-reading to grasp them.

Despite these, 'The Poison Artist' was a real page-turner. It's atmospheric locations, and the detailed story really portray the visuals that the author was trying to get across. It is a strong first outing for this trilogy that promises more great writing to come. And with its dark film noir style, hopefully a film adaptation won't be out of the question in the future as well. Definitely recommended if you're a fan of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter books.  

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