Instructions for use:
- Set your Suspension of Disbelief setting to maximum
- Dial down your empathy for people being killed for fun and try to feel ok about spending time inside the head of a serial killer
- Clear your calendar, switch off your phone, tell everyone you're not to be disturbed and settle down to several hours of compulsive entertainment.
I picked the book up because the title, "Thirteen" qualifies it for the 13 square on my Halloween Bingo reading challenge and because of the impishly clever tagline: "The serial killer isn't on trial, he's on the jury."
Cavanagh is a new author for me. "Thirteen", published in January 2018, is the fourth thriller about conman turned lawyer, Eddie Flynn. I haven't read the other books but that didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this one and didn't have enough spoilers in it to prevent me hitting the back catalogue if the urge strikes me.
The writing is muscular, the pace is brisk, the plot is fiendishly clever without cheating in irritating ways and the characters are well enough developed to make great television.
The story flips between being told from the serial killer's point of view and the lawyer's point of view.
The killer is bright, dispassionate, fascinated by causing other people pain and supremely confident of his own invulnerability.
The lawyer is a particular kind of wannabe alpha male wish fulfilment fantasy: he's a mentally and physically tough man who is driven by a need to defend the innocent that only he can save even when that means sacrificing his own happiness. He treats women with respect and treats male bullies to his fists. He's cunning in the courtroom and competent on the streets. He doesn't actually have a cape or a Bat Cave but he still behaves like a superhero.
Cavanagh manages to combine a compelling courtroom drama with a watch-the-evil-genius-kill-the-innocent-and-not-get-caught story.
Sometimes I had to work hard to suspend my disbelief about how a murder trial works or the abuse a man can survive without ending up in a hospital for weeks but it was worth it because it was exciting and I really, really wanted to know what happened next.
The plot is full of surprises of the slap-my-forehead-how did-I-not-see-that-coming? kind and the ideas are original and intriguing. From time to time I found being in the serial killer's head a bit too smugly voyeuristic but my need to turn the page and solve the puzzle kept me going, even through the icky blood-spattered bits.
"Thirteen" turned out to be an original and entertaining thriller with no boring bits to skim through. I'm sure I'll be meeting Eddie Flynn again at some point.