The Psalm Killer

Chris Petit, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (437p) ISBN 978-0-679-45126-6
The madness that has beset Northern Ireland for decades provides the backdrop for this gripping tale of political conspiracy and serial murder set in Belfast. At the heart of the book's considerable darkness is a ruthless professional killer codenamed ""Candlestick."" Ostensibly a deserter from the British army, Candlestick worked in the early 1970s for a Protestant paramilitary leader, an I.R.A. leader and two warring factions of British intelligence--occasionally for more than one at the same time. Petit (Robinson) interposes flashbacks of Candlestick's story with the 1985 investigation of police inspector Cross, another Briton in Belfast, who's struggling to make sense of a series of tenuously connected murders. As the two stories converge, layers of conspiracy emerge, revealing an intricate tangle of cover-ups, convoluted motives and odd political bedfellows. Petit stumbles into some cliches, most troublingly in forays into the psychology of a killer and the gratuitous romance between Cross and a female detective. Also, some forced surprises are grafted onto the ending. But a knack for suspenseful plotting and a gritty evocation of Belfast and its intersecting underworlds make for a hard-hitting political thriller. Petit's look at subversive tactics and unexpected alliances are on the bead, and few readers will forget his villain, the cruel, horrifying Candlestick. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 512 pages - 978-0-449-00289-6
Hardcover - 978-0-517-26947-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-449-00290-2
Paperback - 646 pages - 978-0-330-33673-4
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