13 June 2009

Review: RITUAL, Mo Hayder

Bantam Press, through Random House Australia, 2008, 415 pages, ISBN 978-0-593-05642-4

When police diver Sergeant Flea Marley locates a human hand on the bottom of Bristol's harbour, she tries to picture how the body would be. She is surprised then, when she gives the hand an experimental tug, that it comes free, no weight behind it. The hand had initially been seen disappearing beneath the black water by a passerby, no body, no head, just a disappearing hand.

DI Jack Caffery is Deputy SIO, newly seconded to the Major Crime Investigation Unit in Bristol. He first of all assumes that they must be dealing with a suicide, someone who has jumped off a bridge, but Flea persuades him the hand is "fresh", recently detached while the person was alive. And so it becomes a possible murder investigation.

The second hand is discovered within a day, but in a strange location, actually under a restaurant that overlooks the harbour. The subsequent investigation ventures into an under-world controlled by drug dependencies, and those who can make money out of the macabre.

There are many other threads that develop in parallel: Flea Marley's search for understanding of diving accident that took her parents' lives; Jack Caffery's need to avenge the death of his own brother decades before; and then the story of the hands, how they came to be in the harbour.

The novel has a fascinating structure using jig-sawed time frames, and keeps the reader constantly on his/her toes constructing the scenarios. A rather black novel, RITUAL was short-listed for the 2008 Ian Fleming (CWA) Steel Dagger, and is currently in the voting for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. For me the tension that developed in the last 100 or so pages was masterfully done, so good that I wanted release.

While Flea Marley is a new creation, Jack Caffery first appeared in 2001 in BIRDMAN, and then in 2002 in THE TREATMENT, subsequently a winner of a 2002 WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award.
RITUAL is described as the first novel in the "Walking Man" series, and the second, SKIN, was published in March 2009. In an "after-word" in RITUAL Hayder says Jack Caffery is her "poster-boy". See this article: 'The Problem with Caffery' The article explains where The Walking Man came from, as well as the inspiration for Flea Marley.

My rating : 4.7

Read an extract of RITUAL

Mo Hayder's website

Reactions to Reading sees RITUAL as a "return to form".

PIG ISLAND, Mo Hayder, my rating 4.8
Journalist Joe Oakes makes his living exposing supernatural hoaxes. The video of the 'the devil of Pig Island' has been around for a couple of years and Joe is absolutely sure that it is a hoax. Rumours of Satanic rituals taking place on Pig Island still proliferate, particularly among the mainland locals who resent the fact that the island is no longer open to them. The secretive religious group that lives on the island invites Joe to stay with them on the island for a week to see how the community lives. That dreadful events occur on Pig Island seems confirmed by two pieces of evidence that Joe can check for himself: a dreadful smell apparent when the wind blows from that quarter, and decaying chunks of flesh that constantly drift from the island to the mainland.


Kenneth said...

A different view - I enjoyed Birdman very much, but was bored and put-off by some plotlines in Treatment. The on-going obsession with "missing brother" felt over-done, unreal for the Caffery character. He had become that old cliche of the wounded, silent male who needs a woman to fix him, i.e., get him to spill his guts out. Apparently more and more crime fiction authors feel that they must do a pedophilia book, there is now too much of it, and that theme didn't endear me to The Treatment either. I liked Birdman enough that I will probably read Ritual at some point, but not for some time. Finally, I am a bit suspicious of an author that starts a series(?) with only the third appearance of a major character - sounds like it might be an acknowledgement that something wasn't right. Ken

Jerome Parisse said...

I love Mo Hayder. I think she writes effortlessly and her twists and plots are amazing. I would agree though that I think the issue of Caffery'd brother's disappearance is sometimes overdone. Also, for example at the end of Birdman, I find there can be a little bit too much of gratuitous gore. In fact, I've loved her latest novel, Gone, which is a cliff-hanger without much gore.


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