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88 Killer
by Oliver Stark

Release Date: 18th Aug 2011
Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 978 0 7553 7014 6
RRP: £6.99

Average Customer Rating: 
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Stark is back for a second round...

Featuring the dastardly duo: Detective Tom Harper and Dr Denise Levene; Stark gives us all a history lesson and a whole lot more in his second crime thriller, 88 Killer.

Levene hasn’t been coping since her run in with the American Devil. Pounding the streets is all well and good, but when she’s not obsessively running, she’s retreated back into hiding from the world. Harper has been kept at arm’s length too, but apparently that wasn’t enough to deter two cops from Missing Persons turning up on her doorstep appealing for help. A teenage girl, Abbey Goldsberg, has gone missing. Simple enough. The problem is whilst it looks like a straightforward runaway scenario, they can’t help feeling that there is something more, and Levene knows the girl’s father.

Meanwhile, Harper has been called to the scene of a barbaric murder – David Capske has been found in an alleyway, wrapped in barbed wire with a single gunshot to the head at close range: it’s an execution. More than that, the killer spent time torturing the victim. With the media having been alerted and the idea of a political slant for the killer being implanted in everyone’s minds, Harper knows he’s got an uphill struggle trying to convince everyone and himself that there’s more to the kill that politics. As the body count increases, the realisation that the killer is purposefully targeting Jews hits home; as does the terrifying knowledge that he is escalating, both in the level of violence inflicted and the speed with which he’s attacking his next victim.

88 Killer feels different to Stark’s debut novel. There’s a niggle that nibbles away at the brain, something off kilter and it’s hard to pin it down… Perhaps it is that unlike American Devil, the 88 Killer’s identity wasn’t baffling to deconstruct or comprehend. Maybe it was the vitriolic language used to describe the Nazi regime, the Holocaust and the mistreatment of the Jewish population during the Second World War, which, whilst justified, feels…personal. There is perhaps a propensity to blame the ideology behind the killer’s motives rather than a psychosis. It could be that where Stark has shown a willingness to tackle taboo topics, in 88 Killer, rather than challenge conventional views of racism, he toes the party line.

Whatever it is, it comes secondary to a gripping tug-of-war of emotions. The perverse tactics of ‘Mac’ in re-enabling victims of violence is intriguing, as is the premise that taking a predator role prevents you from being the victim; little nuggets of wisdom that make Stark so incredibly readable. But what really gets me about Stark is his ability to be inside the head of the killer with such precision and realism, he gives me shivers.

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