cover image Death of a Murderer

Death of a Murderer

Rupert Thomson, . . Knopf, $23 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26584-5

Thomson (The Insult ) takes the death of real-life British serial sex murderer Myra Hindley, who died of natural causes in prison years after her crimes, as the starting point for his riveting eighth novel. Billy Tyler, an underachieving, unambitious policeman, gets the night shift guarding the killer's body, which lies in a hospital morgue before cremation. During Billy's 12-hour vigil, he reflects on his troubles with his wife, Sue; their Down syndrome child, Emma; lost love, friendship and death. In several perfectly drawn scenes, the ghost of “Britain's most hated woman” (Hindley is never named) appears, drawing Billy into discussions that leave him troubled and confused about the nature of evil and the possibility that it exists within us all. The writing is quietly brilliant: “The night smelt musty, thrilling. Cow parsley, fox fur. The breath of owls.” At one point Billy thinks to himself, “Certain stories lodge like rusty hooks in the soft flesh of the mind. You cannot free yourself.” Readers will agree; this fine novel is one of those unforgettable stories. Author tour. (Aug.)