“Oh, thank you so much for coming in at such short notice, Nicole,’ Audrey Bennett said, opening the front door to her white-fronted, two-storey house in Upper Laurel Canyon, a very affluent neighborhood located in the Hollywood Hills region of Los Angeles.” – Starting line from I Am Death, Chris Carter
The seventh book in the series, Chris Carter adheres to the cardinal rule of “writing what you know” and plots his murder in the setting he knows best – Los Angeles. Although the series follows a homicide detective Robert Hunter and sometimes makes references to the book prior to the story, they are all standalones which can be read out of order if you so wish to.
The story begins with a kidnapping and naturally, as advertised in the title, ends with a gruesome death awaiting Robert Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia, to solve. And time is running out as one dead body appears after another, all equally gruesome, mounting pressure on the detectives to catch the perpetrator as the psychotic killer taunts the homicide detectives with the cryptic message “I am death” at each scene.
The novel is quite a standard length but because of the quick pace and the hooks which promise further illumination to the investigation, the novel can be read in a relatively short time. Interestingly, the short chapters also serve as a natural bookmark, allowing a reader to return to the story at ease. Even the switch from one point of view to another is well handled, setting up the stage for the story to develop further.
What sets Chris Carter apart from other detective stories is, he does not resort to clever but obscure deductions that are too farfetched. Instead, Carter makes use of his expertise in criminal psychology and his wealth of research from interviews with criminals to scaffold the thriller. This provides an interesting take to the detective story as readers are exposed to the psychological state driving the killer to commit such unspeakable and violent murders.
No doubt, the violence possibly far exceeds expectations but surprisingly, I have to say, Carter tones down the violence in this book. Even the almighty prowess of the protagonist, Robert Hunter, appears to be diminished as Carter presents an interesting premise to the reader, “Can a sociopath serial killer be nurtured under the right circumstances?” With this question in mind, a reader is not just reading the unravelling of mystery but also the motivation driving the story.
Naturally, this invitation is reflected in the starting line, when a posh lady welcomes the victim, and by extension the reader, in. Death is often painted with a beautiful and exalted exterior, but often, one forgets the horrid and gruesome aspect. This novel would certainly remind the reader so.