Catherine Ryan Howard has composed a book that lifts to unique levels the experience of reading thrillers with a wily plot of perilous tension and a writing craft that amplifies the fascination with the cold remorseless mind of a serial killer.
The remarkable sense of this thriller is that it feels like a true crime story because it is so vividly portrayed with an observational quality and depth of rational thinking that imbue a notion of reality. Yet in Catherine Howard’s own words “this is a work of fiction even the facts are fiction”. Truly an outstanding thriller that skilfully holds the question of hunter versus hunted on a tantalising edge.
Eve Black was twelve years old when her family was slaughtered by the Nothing Man. A killer so named because the police could find ‘nothing’ in their investigations as to his identity. The only survivor of that fateful night, Eve, has suffered for a long time from unresolved issues and a pang of guilt that has been circling her, a loss that she feels to her core, and a need for retribution that has lasted for nearly twenty years. Determined to discover who the Nothing Man is, Eve writes a memoir novel called The Nothing Man to try and flush him out.
“I was the girl who survived the Nothing Man. Now I am the woman who is going to catch him … You’ve just read the opening pages of The Nothing Man, the true-crime memoir Eve Black has written about her obsessive search for the man who killed her family nearly two decades ago. Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle is reading it too, and with each turn of the page his rage grows. Because Jim was – is – the Nothing Man.”
Knowing who the Nothing Man is, is not a spoiler, but rather gives us knowledge that Eve doesn’t have and creates a tense element of drama. The story is narrated from the perspectives of Eve and Jim Doyle. The clever structure of this novel adds unique perspectives which provide a book within a book to tell parts of the story and build The Nothing Man’s rage to finish the job.
Images of the cruelty surface every now and again to remind the reader of how cold-hearted the killer was. A psychopathic killer without limits treating murder as a chilling satisfaction of dominance. A Garda officer at the time Ed has always kept the case alive and now works with Eve to flush the killer out.
“I imagined him feeling safe, maybe even smug, sure that since he had avoided detection all these years, no one was ever going to come for him now. But I was coming for him, with Ed by my side. It was only a matter of time.”
The enthralling suspense that plays out is wonderfully maintained throughout the novel and leads to a cleverly crafted climax.
One of the best thrillers in 2020 and I would highly recommend it. I would like to thank Atlantic Books, Corvus and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.