Thursday, May 10, 2007


Title:The 50/50 Killer
Author: Steve Mosby
Publisher: Orion

December 3rd, the weather is taking a turn for the worse; it is Mark Nelson's first day as a police officer. Joining the team of Inspector Mercer, who has a distinct reputation for murder investigations, but replacing his dead predecessor will not be easy. However, being late for work is not the way to make a best first impression. Especially not when he turns up at the office to find that the team are already out - a man has been killed in his home. Caught on the back foot, Mark is going to have one of those days, there are hints that this killing relates to a previous killing, but Mark just doesn't know enough to understand the glances, the comments, the clues.

As the day goes on he learns, he learns about the 50/50 Killer. A handful of couples have gone through traumatic experiences, the devil has come to their home, tied them up, and tested their love for each other. A test that mainly involves torture and mutilation, and in the end death for one half of the couple. Kevin, the dead man, was involved with Jodie, who was cheating on her boyfriend Scott. Kevin's death is a change of tactics for the killer, the most obvious move will be that he will move on to the couple - torturing them over night, till a decision is reached by dawn, and one of them will die. The search starts, but when a naked, beaten, one-eyed man is found staggering out of the woods, it seems that Scott has escaped from the devil, but in doing so he just condemned Jodie to death.

The 50/50 Killer is Steve Mosby's third novel - following on from his debut The Third Person and his last novel The Cutting Crew. Again it is a bit of a crime hybrid novel, though the sense of the other is reduced more with this piece, none of the pseudo future/alternate reality city that crept into the previous works. Though The 50/50 Killer is a lot more taut and charged than the previous novels, going for that 24 approach, by setting a deadline from the start. Ticking down, hour by hour towards dawn, tension building, red herrings and false leads mounting up. Mosby does include some sense of the other here, the killer is always reported by the survivors as being the devil, an idea that he plays with - making it clear that really it is a man in a mask, but still offering us the doubts and superstitions of rational men to suggest he is perhaps more.

Throughout I had a certain sense of where things were going, coming to conclusions before the characters did - though this was more down to an intuition, rather than an authorial clumsiness that some writers can fall into. There was one part that wasn't sitting right with me as I read it, though I was too busy turning the pages to work out why, So that that was one twist that did hit me when the reason finally became clear.

Since coming across The Third Person, published as part of a low priced offer to promote new crime writers, I have been impressed by Steve Mosby's work. Keeping track of his subsequent work, and eagerly picking up The Cutting Crew and now The 50/50 Killer at the earliest opportunity. The biggest disappointment with Mosby is that he just doesn't seem to better known, that book shops seem to get a token couple of copies on first publication, and then never replace them when those quickly sell. With The 50/50 Killer, Mosby remains very readable, shifting the focus into a higher pace, and offering a greater sense of brutality at the core of the work.

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