Rob Kitchin. The Rule Book. Pen Press. 2009. 353 p. ISBN: 978-1-906710-57-6.
At the crime scene we find Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy of the NBCI (National Bureau of Criminal Investigation), the branch of the gardai in charge of Ireland’s most serious crimes including murder and organised crime. McEvoy is struggling to quit smoking, he lost his wife of cancer recently and has to take care of his twelve years old daughter. He has lost as well two stone in weight and his suits are ill fitting.
The victim is a young woman, almost a girl. She was part of a homeless group from Dublin at a Centre in Glencree, miles away from anywhere. It seems she has been forced to swallow a sword with no signs of fight or sexual assault. But the killer has left a note with chapter one of The Rule Book, a self-help guide for serial killers with the picture of a crow or a raven which confirms that the crime has been carefully planned.
Less than twenty four hours later another victim is found in Maynooth together with the second chapter of The Rules and the media give the murderer the nickname of The Raven. And when a third body is discovered at Phoenix Park it seems clear now that The Raven is planning to kill a victim a day until The Rule Book is finally published. With increasing pressure from his superiors and the media, McEvoy chases a killer that seems to be several steps ahead.
The book, written in the third person, follows the main character but there are also scenes in which the murderer and his methods are shown. The title is a clear reference to the book whose chapters, written by the murderer, are left on each crime scene. The cover shows the statue of radical labour leader, Jim Larkin, his hands left aloft, behind him the spire rising up through them. We are in Dublin but if you want to know more you better read it in the book.
The plot follows a chronological order and it is structured in chapters, one for each day. It begins on Monday, April 14th until Monday, April 21st and it has an epilogue on Friday 25th. Each chapter has several sections from a few lines up to three pages in some cases. The style used is pretty much informal, and it has a great sense of the place. If any objection can be made is that the style is at times a bit repetitive.
This is a police procedural which focuses mainly in the daily work of the crime investigators, their internal quarrels, their difficult relationship with the media, the political implications of the case, the personal history of the main character topped up with a few references to Ireland and its history which I found very interesting. It has some great secondary characters like the state pathologist Professor Elaine Jone and a Scottish profiler Kathy Jacobs. And both, Charlie Deegan an ambitious detective and Detective Chief Superintended Tony Bishop, are used effectively to create some tension.
Actually I very much enjoyed reading this clever and credible book. It has a real and interesting main character. The plot is nicely developed and it keeps my interest until the last page. A very entertaining reading. I look forward to read his next book where I expect to meet some of this characters again.
Prof. Rob Kitchin, Director of NIRSA works at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. His research interest focus on social and cultural geography, in particular issues of disability, sexuality, cyberspace. He has published some 17 non-fiction books to date. The Rule Book (2009) is his debut novel. His second novel The White Gallows will be released on June 12th, 2010.
The Rule Book was reviewed by Critical Mick; International Noir Fiction; Crime Scraps; Djs Krimiblog; Kitlling: Books; Reactions to Reading; Mack Lundy and others at amazon.co.uk.
Interviews with Rob Kitchin at Crime Always Pays, Crime Scene NI and Crime Watch.
Rob Kitchin blogs at http://theviewfromthebluehouse.blogspot.com/