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McNeill, Fergus - 'Eye Contact'
Hardback: 352 pages (Sep. 2012) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton ISBN: 1444739611

Robert Naysmith is a salesman, a job that gives him lots of freedom as he travels the country making new contacts, new sales and renewing his links with his clients. He is in a stable relationship with a loving, and submissive, partner, Kim.

Naysmith has a secret hobby. He plays a game with unsuspecting members of the public. When the game starts, something determined by random incidents that have significance only to Naysmith, the next person to make eye contact with him is his chosen partner in the new game.

Naysmith finds as much out about his new partner as he can. He gives them a 24 hours head start - this is one of the strict rules to the game and Naysmith follows them religiously. Then Naysmith looks for them again; searching out the unknown partner gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his skills. He follows them and learns their habits. All part of the game.

When a body of a young woman, a jogger, is found on the lonely stretch of Severn Beach, Inspector Harland is given the job of identifying her and searching out her killer. The tide has removed any forensic evidence that may have been there and the woman was well liked, with no violent relationships and no obvious suspects. A seemingly random killing leaving the police chasing few leads. Inspector Harland has his own concerns. His wife had been killed only twelve months previously in a car accident and the grief was still raw and his temper short. When DS Pope suggests that it was most likely a sexual assault and that they ought to be linking it with previous similar assaults, Harland disagrees. But then Pope takes his suggestion to their boss, Blake, and Harland’s temper gets the better of him.

Then the break in the case comes. A key ring found with the body the is linked with an unsolved murder in a neighbouring force's area. It has also been identified as a random killing. Are they linked, could it possibly be the same murderer?

A minor annoyance for me is that interspersed with the main story line are some pieces that might be memories, might be fantasies of a young Naysmith - I found it hard to tell. I would have preferred this part of the back story to have been written in a clearer fashion.

This is an interesting and frightening concept, where the victim is decided purely by chance. The characters are well drawn, although I felt little sympathy for them despite the well portrayed grief and emotional disturbance of Harland. The victims were quite thinly sketched, very minor players in the drama and this also made me uneasy. This is the first novel of a creator of computer games and, the story has the same feel of the "player" being in charge and around whom all the action spins - the other characters not being important and easily eliminated.

Susan White, England
October 2012

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 28/10/2012 11:17