Book review: The Beauty of Murder

BOOK: The Beauty of Murder
AUTHOR: A.K. Benedict
PUBLISHER: Orion (Hachette)
RRP: $29.99


THERE'S much to like about The Beauty of Murder, with the story combining crime with time travel.

It's an intriguing concept, but the execution doesn't always keep pace with a good idea.

Set in Cambridge, the author creates an excellent sense of place; you feel the wind and the chill that rips to your bones.

Her language is strong throughout, producing good imagery and an atmosphere of menace and mystery.

The author also delivers characters who are largely sympathetic and ideas that stay with you.

All in all, it is an ambitious blend of police procedure, thriller and time travel themes and for the most part A.K. Benedict pulls it off.

The story, however, loses its way in the middle before regathering somewhat for a surprising end.

The central character is junior lecturer Stephen Killigan, who's out drinking one night in Cambridge when he stumbles upon the body of a beauty queen who's been missing for a year. She's wearing a stone mask.

But when the police go to retrieve the body, it's gone. Detective Inspector Jane Horne must ask herself, is Killigan a nutter, a time waster or something worse - a suspect in the girl's disappearance?

The truth is much stranger. Unwittingly, Killigan has time travelled and soon afterwards finds himself drawn to 17th century Oxford.

Killigan's path from our time to 17th century Oxford pulls him into a sinister world dominated by time traveller and serial killer Jackamore Grass who has a penchant for murder and manipulation.

It's all fascinating stuff and Killigan is a strong, likeable character. Also likeable is Inspector Horne, with the chapters written from her point of view some of the strongest.

But the story is not cohesive and in parts doesn't seem to have a point. Jackamore Grass is too shadowy and it's hard to get a sense of who he is or why we should fear him or even care about him.

The chapters written from his point of view are irritating. The "beauty" theme also needs development.

Saying that, the central idea is interesting and the "who dun it" will take you by surprise; the story is just a little tangled and bloated in parts.

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