Literature aficionado, Charlotte Tobitt, gives her two cents on ‘The Killing Season,’ author Mason Cross’ first full length novel.
American crime novels are widely regarded as the literary cliché of the decade: Gritty tone, reluctant hero who’s just outside the law, stuffy FBI agents ad nauseam, but that doesn’t mean that every single one should be tainted with that same stigma.
Mason Cross’ The Killing Season is a crime novel with a refreshing voice. It follows Carter Blake – not his real name, though that doesn’t seem very significant – who is a certain type of bounty hunter and has been drafted in by the FBI to help capture an escaped (or suspiciously released? Oooh…) death row prisoner, Caleb Wardell, aka. The Chicago Sniper.
Cross, a Glaswegian author who works in the voluntary sector, writes well. The prose is snappy but emotive; it follows conventions and, crucially, is mostly unpredictable.
A slow burner, once the killings begin and the puzzle of Wardell needs to be unravelled it is likely to unexpectedly hook the reader out of the blue – as any book with a decisive pace must.
The two leads, Blake and his most sympathetic FBI ally, single mother Elaine Banner, share a sizzling chemistry that never quite crosses the line into predictable formula; their relationship is not clear-cut and their ambivalent attitude towards a romantic liaison is one of the big differences from the usual thriller side-plot.
Banner’s maternal instincts make her particularly relatable and, unusually, even turn out to have a functioning purpose rather than acting merely as a sob story sub-plot.
It is fascinating to be able to see inside the killer’s mind. His toying with one particular journalist, the alternately random and methodical murders and his confident taunting of anyone he comes into contact with.
No one can resist a glimpse into the mind of a madman, even an imagined one, for a morbid look at the human condition – Wardell does not disappoint. He is an unforgiving, unforgivable person who likes to play God.
For his debut novel, Cross efficiently manages to subvert most stereotypes that plague this genre. Some turns of phrase and ideas could be developed further, but considering this is supposed to be the first in a Carter Blake series, it will certainly be interesting to see where he can go next, just as long as the market isn’t totally saturated by then.