My verdict – Misleading.

Allow me to explain.

Death of a Murderer spans 249 pages. By the time I turned the 200th page, I knew something was very wrong because the “chill” that was supposed to run down my spine still had not manifested itself. Not only that, but the whole premise of the book (as represented on the backcover synopsis) – centered around the death of convicted child serial killer Myra Hindley – seemed almost non-existent.

Boyd Tonkin of the Independent reviewed this book as “Fearless … summons up the monsters that haunt both self and society”. Eve Magazine wrote that “this chiller is one to read with the lights on … an ultimate dark night of the soul.”

The backcover states: “One night in November 2002, PC Billy Tyler is called to a mortuary in Suffolk to guard the body of a notorious child-killer. But in the eerie silence of the hospital, the killer’s presence begins to assert itself … A vivid evocation of an extraordinary moment in crime history, Death of a Murderer is a dark and gripping meditation on the fears and temptations that haunt us all.

Let me tell you what happened in the eerie silence of the mortuary. PC Billy Tyler struggles to stay awake. He drinks coffee alone watching the mortuary fridges one of which contains Hindley’s body. He doesn’t have the key to open the locked fridge door so he sits there and he starts to daydream and have flashbacks of his wife Sue, his daughter who has Down’s syndrome and he has erotic thoughts of his ex-girlfriend Venetia who is half Scottish half Indian. Twice during the night that he is on duty guarding the body he hallucinates that he is talking to the dead woman, who appears wearing a lilac suit and smokes incessantly. She asks about the person he loved the most in his life.. A philosophical exchange.

Eerie? Chilling? No. Nothing of that sort. Nothing even close to that sort. And that left me so very disappointed. I had wanted to read a ghost story, something disturbing. But the cover of this book is everything that its story is not.

This book would more aptly be titled “Dreaming in a Mortuary” or “My Conversation with Myself in a Mortuary” or “Policeman’s Erotic Daydreams” and clearly not “Death of a Murderer”. Because there is nothing about Myra Hindley or her tormented soul coming back from the dead. There is nothing about her dark sadism that consumes PC Billy Tyler during his watch. Nothing at all.

Instead, we are treated to endless flashbacks of Tyler’s life before and during this time in the force. There are the adventures he had in Italy with his friend Raymond Percival, sex with Venetia … how he wore his police uniform and went to Venetia’s father’s house late one night to convey his daughter’s sentiments to him about their 6-year incestuous relationship, thoughts about Emma his daughter, etc. But nothing about the Myra Hindley murders or for that matter, any of her “presence”.

It’s not a bad book. Don’t get me wrong. It was an enjoyable read, but I read and read, turning the pages because I was led to believe by the covers that this was some kind of ghost story. In the end it was not. And hence my disappointed take on this book. I was misled.

Backcovers and Hindley aside, this is a book about Mr Everyman. About ordinary people living today, worrying about the future and pondering on the past. PC Billy Tyler is the sum of it all, and with him, we too are invited to think about our own lives and what we’ve achieved within the time given to us and all of our struggles for acceptance. Myra Hindley is just a backdrop to all this.

If you’ve read this book, I’d like to know what you thought of it. And on that same note, I’d appreciate it if someone could recommend a really scary book for me to read (No Stephen King, please).

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