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Although I did not fully embrace the subject matter in Mosby’s first novel The Third Person – just a matter of taste, I assure you – I did notice and appreciate, and indeed, would draw attention to this author’s wonderfully mature writing which displays great emotional intelligence. It belies the years suggested on his birth certificate.
I was late in reading my trusty HB of this novel last year; the PB was out before I managed to read it and now Mosby’s next crime fiction tome – Cry for Help – is out in a few weeks. I am also late in posting about this novel because it’s one of the little darlings I typed onto my laptop over Christmas and New Year, which had to be re-typed due to technological difficulties. So, what do we get with The 50/50 Killer?
I believe that Mosby married around the time of publication of this novel and I wonder if the impending recognition of commitment was the source of inspiration for this novel, for here, the story revolves around a killer who likes to test a couple’s love for each other. The killer in question is known as "The Devil" and he likes to play "games" with couples, testing their resolve and their love for one another in a way that only nightmares would normally intrude. The key question posed to each member of each couple is this: "Are you prepared to die to save the one you love?" The story matter is not for the faint-hearted as the killer tests with torture and luckily, Mosby strikes it right here, we have just enough detail, but not too much.
But that’s only one big slice of the plot, which is multi-layered. The novel opens with renowned detective John Mercer at a funeral for a member of his team where we experience, first hand, his breakdown. Two years later, he’s back at work and it’s easy to think the story will unfold through Mercer’s eyes. First wrong-footing. He has a new recruit, Mark Nelson who he seems to overlook, but Nelson has transferred to that team because he knows the public side of Mercer’s story and admires him. From his arrival on day one of the job, we see the story through Nelson’s eyes; how he learns the truth of the impact on Mercer and how he is forced to face and use his own experiences in the case.
The team is up against a dawn deadline to save the female half of one couple and capture "The Devil", which makes for a page turner. But this novel is more than nail biting thriller suspense, because Mosby can deliver far more. He never forgets the impact of violence on the victims. He does not shirk the effect and resultant impact of any action. We see the killer’s actions through the victims’ eyes. We see the experience and impact of the killer’s actions on Mercer’s life. We experience Nelson’s fraught time with Mercer, experience his own turmoil with him and will him on as the dénouement approaches.
Gritty and horrific material in a crime novel, but handled with care.
Mosby is one to watch; he’s original and pushing boundaries, but do not expect an easy ride.