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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

‘The Poison Artist’ by Jonathan Moore

Published by Orion,
10 March 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-5973-5

Caleb’s girlfried has just walked out on him, and he’s roaming the streets of San Francisco. He goes into a bar and meets a beautiful woman in a black silk dress. Soon he’s obsessed by her. Then his friend Henry asks him to run tests on a series of bodies fished out of the harbor. What he finds suggests the work of a deranged serial killer – and it seems each man was linked to a bar where he met the mysterious woman…

This psychological thriller is told in the third person, from Caleb’s point of view. We sympathise with him straight away, as he tries to come to terms with Bridget’s departure, and feel his fascination with the woman in black with a mixture of hope and foreboding. Henry, who’s known him since they were at school together, shares our concern at the way his life’s unravelling. Once Henry enlists his help, we see Caleb at work as a toxicologist, and the interest of the puzzle he’s solving draws him back into his professional world. His two women, the mysterious woman and Bridget, are both vividly drawn, his potential dark and light angels, and we gradually learn more about them. As the hunt for the killers intensifies, so does Caleb’s obsession, and he meets the woman in an empty bar and a Gothic house, both atmospherically described. There’s some fairly gruesome autopsy detail, but the story centres on Caleb’s journey towards darkness. The final sequence is tense, horrifying and ultimately pitiful. The writing is atmospheric and elegant, whispering across the pages as softly as the woman’s silk dress.

A gripping, original and elegantly-written journey into the mind of a killer. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
Jonathan Moore is an attorney with the Honolulu firm of Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda. Before completing law school in New Orleans, he was an English teacher, the owner of Taiwan’s first Mexican restaurant, and an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C. He is the author of two previous novels, Close Reach and Redheads, which was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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