Pariah by Thomas Emson

EmsonPariahWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher via Edelweiss (thanks!).

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2013)

Narrator: Simon Vance

Length: 10 hours 55 minutes

Author’s Page

The 1888 murders of 5 east end Londoners was never solved, though the cases became famous for the nick name given to the never-identified murderer: Jack the Ripper. East End suffers another murder spree in 1996, and again, the cases go unsolved. The bulk of the story takes place 2011, when Charlie Faultless returns to East End and the murders start again. There are foes at every turn and a deeper, darker mystery that he must get to the bottom of if he hopes to prevent the murders of people he cares about.

This was a dark and creepy mystery and I really enjoyed it. While it had a few shortcomings, I found that I didn’t want to put it down. The main hero, if you can call him a hero, is not exactly a good guy, though he is trying to do right by his dead mother and dead girlfriend, both of whom died in the 1996 murder spree. Charlie grew up involved in crime and that was his way of life until he was banished from England in 1996. In 2011, as a well known investigative writer, he returns to London to delve into the 1996 murders. He reconnects with some past criminal associates and a few old friends, and not a few enemies bent on revenge. I really enjoyed this character because he isn’t going about these activities out of some new found idea of right and wrong but out of duty to what was his. Charlie’s character grows a bit with the book, as he connects with those now threatened, and as he learns about his true nature (which happens at the very end, so I can’t say too much about that without dropping spoilers).

Meanwhile, we get to spend time in the heads of other people. There are a few women in the story (the little sister (Tash) to the dead girlfriend, her daughter (Jasmin), and a handful of other  minor characters). There is a deeper mystery to the story and the women are at the center of that mystery. Jack the Ripper is a recurring evil that is unleashed every so many decades. He hunts certain humans because he requires something from them, something hidden deep in each one; hence, all the cutting up of the bodies. These special humans can sense him and have a kind of prescience allowing them to somewhat predict events. Over the ages, these special humans have often banded together to hunt Jack and seal him away.

And that is where my little criticism came in. The male hunters (while minor characters) had very active roles in hunting down and sealing away Jack. We get several flashbacks throughout the story showing us how this was done. However, the women of the past and of the present are pretty much useless. Only towards the end, and only in a spotty way, do we see the ladies put up some sort of struggle or take an active role in hunting Jack. Mostly, they huddle around in tears talking about their horrid dreams of a man hunting them and slicing them apart. Oh, and the adult ladies have sex with various male characters. Yep, the ladies are written pretty shallowly in this book.

And despite that, I was riveted. The plot wove bits of the past with lots of the modern mess of criminal activity. Charlie’s character fascinated me because he didn’t consider himself a hero, but just a guy who had set his mind to accomplish this one thing (bring down the murderer of his mum and girlfriend). Then there are all these fascinating bad guys who do pretty gruesome things (such as the dead girlfriend’s father, a crooked cop, and handiman, etc.). In each of their minds, they were their own hero and justified their actions.

The ending was terribly exciting and brutal. I really didn’t know how the outcome would go – Jack defeated or charlie broken? There is a very nice twist at the end and makes me deeply hope there will be a sequel to this tale.

Narration: Simon Vance did a great job, as always. He is one of my favorite authors and I will pick up a book by an author I have never heard of just because he is doing the narration. He had a very creepy voice for Jack and dark, intense voice for Charlie. Excellent performance!

What I Liked:   Nitty, gritty storyline; story shows us glimpses of the past; I like the idea of a secret society hunting the recurring evil known as Jack; excellent twist at the end. 

What I Disliked: The female characters were pretty shallow; the cover doesn’t encompass the dark, absorbing story contained within.

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