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Friday, 30 December 2011

Review: Random by Craig Robertson

by Craig Roberston
Published by Simon and Schuster UK, February 2011
ISBN: 9781847398819

Generally speaking I do tend to avoid books written from the viewpoint of the criminal, especially when it relates to cold-blooded murder. This is because I generally have no real desire to put myself in the shoes of the murderer or sympathise with them. It is the kind of moral dilemma I aim to avoid.

However, I am glad that I read Random by Craig Robertson. It was so well-written, so believable and ultimately, so tragic that I could not help but fall in love with it. And every so often forcing yourself to face your own sense of moral judgement is probably good for the soul.

Here is the synopsis:

Glasgow is being terrorised by a murderer the media have nicknamed ‘The Cutter’. But how do you catch a serial killer when even he doesn’t know who’s next?...

Telling the story in his own words, The Cutter reveals the method, and motives, that drive him to kill again and again, in an escalating spree that leaves DS Rachel Narey and her team mystified.

Random is told in first person by The Cutter, a serial killer who chooses his victims completely by random and murders them in the most violent, awful, heartless ways. Working as a cab driver, we follow him through Glasgow, we see how each victim is chosen by random using a number of methods, we witness, through his words each murder, we even see him at home. At a first glance The Cutter is cold, cold and crazy. However, in the strangest way, as you read along you become startlingly aware that there is some logic to his madness, and that there is something much deeper behind the cold-hearted person we see. We are not aware of what it is, but observing his crimes, and his life at home, we realise that something deep down is hurting this man, something so terrible that it has turned him almost dead inside and has given birth to the cold calculated logic that rules his actions.

Of course, his crimes do not go unnoticed and the police begin to investigate. DS Rachel Narey is a brilliant detective, and The Cutter himself ends up almost handing himself to her as he realises that she is a lot smarter than even he gave her credit for.

As the book nears the end, and as DS Narey gets closer to catching her man, we discover the tragedy that has given rise to The Cutters bloody killing spree, the demon that torments him, and the cause of his broken heart. And that is when the moral dilemma kicks in - you have been reading up until now the most horrid crimes and you should easily condemn this man, but you just can’t, or at least I couldn’t. The ending is so sad and tragic and inevitable, and for me the ending, the moral dilemma, and the sadness you feel for a serial killer you ought to despise, that is what makes this book beautiful.

What I like most about the way this book was written probably has to be the vivid description of Glasgow and its people. The author uses Glaswegian dialect to keep the book feeling authentic, although I kept finding that the protagonist's voice never maintained a Glaswegian accent in my head. However, the book is told with such authority about Glasgow that an outsider like me really feels like you are getting an insight into a closed community you may never really truly get to know otherwise.

I also really like the style of the first person narration. Most of it is short, snappy, and conversational. Almost as though The Cutter was confessing, explaining his actions in an interview room when asked to tell it from the beginning. It was very well written.

Another aspect that stays with me is the way that the author slowly, slowly reveals that there is something deeper to The Cutter. Moments when he seems remorseful, yet in some crazy way considers himself helpless, unable to stop. Such as when due to his rules of random selection, he almost has to kill a young boy, and the turmoil that he feels as a result, yet he has no ability to go against it. And yet the author does not justify the actions in any way.

This is a brilliant debut. It has all the ingredients of a successful thriller: suspense, action, violence, mystery, an awesome strong female detective. All of these things are great, but that moral dilemma, in your heart, the sadness, that is what makes this book golden.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK and to Craig Robertson for sharing this awesome book with us. Craig Robertson now has a second book out, Snapshot, and a third coming next year titled Cold As The Grave and if they are even half as good as Random, then I am sure they’ll be a gem to read. You can found out more about Craig Roberston on his author page or follow him on Twitter

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