Luther: The Calling
A John Luther Mystery by Neil Cross
Review: Detective Chief Inspector John Luther is assigned to a most gruesome murder, one in which a near-term baby is cut out of its mother's womb and stolen, the parents murdered in the process, in The Calling, the first book in this series by Neil Cross and a prequel to the television crime drama created by the author starring Idris Elba as Luther.
Luther's rage at the horrific nature of the crime can barely be controlled, but there are a couple of elements to it that appeal to him intellectually, not the least of which is, how did the killer get into the up-scale house without triggering any sort of alarm, and how did he — Luther is assuming it's a "he" but he can't be sure — get away so cleanly. He directs his focus initially on a number of known pedophiles in the area, but is quickly educated in that the type of person who would steal a baby can span a wide, virtually endless spectrum of people. It isn't long before Luther has a name to latch on to; the problem is, though this person seems to have touched a lot of lives, his whereabouts are a complete unknown.
There is a very visual feel to The Calling, which is not surprising in the least given the author's close association with the television series from which this book is derived. The narrative is crisp and descriptive, the dialog rings true, and there is a minimum of tangential side trips that so often act as unnecessary padding in many thrillers. What doesn't work — and rarely does — is that it is written in the present tense. This is particularly troublesome here because there are so many points of view that it's hard to know — or keep track of — which is concurrent with another. (It's not a spoiler to say that the killer is known to the reader and has his own narrative arc.) The characters are well drawn, offering an interesting mix of personalities, though somewhat paradoxically Luther himself isn't the primary draw here. He sometimes comes across as a bit of a caricature, acting and reacting in a way that others expect of him, not what would be natural for him. What is common to many of the characters, however, is that there is a lot of anger simmering just below the surface … and it frequently boils over.
There's a rough, unpolished edge to The Calling. This is almost certainly intentional, and makes for an unusual — not necessarily good but not altogether bad either — reading experience. Readers should be advised that this is a very graphic, very violent, indeed very troubling crime novel.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided an eARC of Luther: The Calling for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Luther: The Calling: London, England
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Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross — A John Luther Mystery
Publication Date: September 2012
List Price: $25.00