The Gallery of the Dead (Robert Hunter #9), by Chris Carter

Nine stars

Chris Carter is back with his ninth instalment of the Robert Hunter series, keeping the story as captivating as ever and the serial killing as gruesome as one might expect. A cell phone call beckons Robert Hunter away at the most inopportune time. A detective within Ultra Violent Crimes (UVC), the most exclusive branch of the LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division, Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia make their way to one of the most gut-churning crime scenes they’ve ever encountered. The victim has had her hands and feet severed and all but a small portion of her skin removed. Upon that untampered piece of flesh, a cryptic message in Latin about beauty. Sure that they are dealing with the most sadistic killer ever to cross the desks of UVC, Hunter and Garcia begin trying to decipher what it all means. Soon, their squad room is filled with three individuals from Washington, as the FBI has a keen interest in the case. Could it be that this killer has more victims outside of Los Angeles. Working for the first time alongside the FBI on a case, Hunter and Garcia learn that the killer—called The Surgeon for the attention he has paid to each victim—has committed at least three murders across the United States, his message only slightly different on each body. While the authorities try to put their heads together, another victim turns up in Arizona, forcing the team to leave the confines of Los Angeles. Hunter has some theories, though every discovery opens new and baffling aspects about this killer. Lurking in the shadows, the man called The Surgeon has more targets in mind, chosen for a specific purpose; to add to his gallery of the dead. Carter offers up one of his most convincing pieces yet with this series that does not stop. Series fans will love this piece and it ought to fuel new readers to begin this collection without delay, especially with the cliffhanger that awaits.

Perhaps one of the greatest psychological thriller writers I have ever discovered, Chris Carter has a masterful way of pulling the reader in during those crucial first chapters and then refuses to let go. How something so disturbing can—like a gruesome car wreck—leave the reader unable to turn away, I will never understand, but Carter does it each time. While the novels no longer focus their attention on protagonist backstory, Robert Hunter continues to thrive with is dry sense of humour and constant delivery of factoids, which enhances the story and educates the reader in equal order. As with each novel, Carter introduces a powerful collection of secondary characters, who not only serve their purpose in the narrative, but also offer a slice of backstory to keep the reader intrigued by them. Some develop in the novel and others remain needed bridges to larger story arcs, all of which tie together by the end. Carter’s utilisation not only of a strong narrative and dialogue, but peppering the story with explanations about serial murder, forensics, and police procedures brings the story to life in a way that few other novels can, placing the reader in the middle of all and on the frontline of any surprises that emerge. These novels, as I have told many people who are seeking something intense, are not cookie-cutter thrillers, in that the serial murderers and the means of killing do not repeat. Each novel provides new and exciting avenues for fans and pulls them in with the simple discovery of a body in some sadistic set-up. It is that addictive factor—that cannot be explained—which serves to turn this series into something so explosive.

Kudos, Mr. Carter, for never letting us down with your writing. I cannot wait to see what Book 10 brings, especially with that ending you provided in this piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: