Research, the murder mystery/thriller published by Philip Kerr in 2014, is one of the most peculiar books of this genre that I have ever read. The plot is what kept me reading, since the book violated one of my most important criteria for an enjoyable book, namely having an interesting and/or sympathetic protagonist. In this case the book is narrated alternately by the “victim”, a famous writer who is selfish and inconsiderate, but no more flawed than the average human being, and, to a greater extent, by the murderer. At first the killer sounds like a reasonable person, but he soon reveals himself to be a revolting psychopath.
Kerr explains the character of his psychopath by giving him a background as a special ops British soldier during the war in Ireland. This is okay for the purposes of fiction, but reminded me of a book I read years ago by an actual special ops veteran who subsequently became a mercenary and wrote a fascinating (and very well written) memoir. The real special forces veteran wasn’t a “nice guy”, in that he enjoyed it when nasty things happened to people he didn’t like and thought nothing of exploiting his persona to scare a civilian if it suited him. On the other hand, he had no tendency toward criminal, let alone homicidal, behavior in his private life.
Kerr’s ex-soldier, on the other hand, dwells a lot on how much he enjoys killing people. He devises a plot that requires at least one murder in order to revenge himself on the famous writer who he believes has exploited him, and enjoys committing additional murders as they become necessary. In fact, the plot is so complicated that it seems impossible for it to succeed. The suspense is provided at first by wondering what the murderer’s plan is, and then by watching as he copes with obstacles as they arise. Apparently, even the most convoluted plot can be successful if murdering people right and left is no obstacle.
Monaco and southern France deserve mention as the beautiful settings for some of the most grisly action.