The crime and horror genre shares a lot of common ground and a lot of cross over in terms of thematics and tropes. It also shares a lot of problems, for example just how many stories have read that involve a damaged cop, a detective on the brink, or most common of then all a detective permanently on the drink? It can get rather tiresome when faced with a constant barrage of broken boys and girls in blue, however, despite this overuse, when this trope is done correctly it is easy to overlook this easy plot device.
In Dallas Mullican's A Coin for Charon Marlowe Gentry is the division's best detective, damaged to point of being almost beyond repair after witnessing the brutal murder of his wife. He barely clings on to life and reality, it is only his compulsion to catch the bad guys and the love of his daughter that keeps him going. So when a new serial killer dubbed The Seraphim Kiler enters the scene Gentry gets a new lease of life, as he focuses all of his rage into bringing this killer to justice.
A Coin for Charon is an assured and interesting debut novel from Dallas Mullican. Despite its use of some well worn tropes and themes it rises above the mundane thanks to some excellent plotting and characterisations.
The real strength of the book comes from the two lead protagonists, Gentry is broken a man, a man looking for redemption or at the very least some semblance of peace. Mullican could easily have gone down the stock character route when creating Gentry, however he successfully turns Gentry into a unique, interesting and sympathetic hero. His anger at failing to stop the serial killer that killed his wife is palpable, it bubbles under the surface driving him ever forward in quest to bring the Seraphim killer to justice.
And as for the Seraphim killer, it is the mark of a great writer, when the readers sympathise and feel for a serial killer. He is doing God's work or so he believes, the way in which he picks his victims and the reasons for doing so is a sublime piece of plotting. Most serial killers are clinical sociopaths, painted as monsters, they vey rarely come across as likeable, let alone almost being one of the good guys. The motives behind the Seraphim killer is a clever and ingenious way of creating a serial killer that makes us question our thoughts on the morality of killing.
A Coin for Charon is an intelligent dark crime story, that has enough crossover appeal for fans of so called traditional horror. Mullican interweaves the various narrative threads into one richly textured story that touches on our fears of isolation, despair and death.
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