The Unsteady Object of Hope is a distinctively bleak and fascinating murder mystery with deep psychological character themes. Robert Raker does a wonderful job creating a dark imposing atmosphere where even the weather is dreary with incessant rain and dark clouds. The mental state of each character exhibits a damaged and forsaken outlook that pervades all their marital relationships with many personal psychological issues being revealed.
The story is based in a Northern Pennsylvanian community beset with economic ruin and blighted with abandoned and deteriorating infrastructure. A local diver is called in to recover a dead twelve-year-old girl, found in her pool but she was dumped there after being raped multiple times and her body mutilated. What follows are the horrific deaths of another seven children, each dumped in a water-related environment – a lake, a flooded quarry, an abandoned water tower. Water and decay are dominant features of the story and ‘water’ is often referenced as to its power to create and destroy.
The rain started to fall more heavily. It felt like it would never end and that the river would burst, the streets would flood, and all the people would suffocate and drown, immersed in a landscape of death and barrenness. The clouds above the horizon blackened. I would bring the darkness with me to him and everywhere.
The narration is told in the first person through four main characters and their four respective partners, each with a connection to the series of murders. The eight protagonists include; a diver (recovering the children’s bodies) and his wife a documentarian, an amputee cellist (who knows who the killer is) and his wife a ballerina, an agent (working undercover on the case) and his wife a teacher, and finally, a painter and model, who were the parents of the first child murdered.
Each of the four main characters has become introverted with their misery, rejecting all interaction from loved ones as they face psychological turmoil. The characterisation and interaction were wonderfully developed to create characters that are irrevocably and introspectively damaged.
Robert is a talented writer with an ability to paint vivid images and descriptions of psychological turmoil that impressed the hell out of me. The difficulty I had was the lack of compelling storytelling. It seemed that every element in the story was over detailed and the core storyline was side-tracked for long periods dealing with the detail on minor parts, that interrupted the flow. It felt like a story that could be cut down in size quite considerably.
I would recommend reading this book and I would like to thank Robert Raker and NetGalley for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.