‘It delivers all the points that a crime novel should’ – A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez

A significant element of the enjoyment that comes from reading a good crime novel is, in my opinion, the morbid fascination with how gruesome a scenario the writer’s imagination can produce. On this particular front, Sherez does not disappoint; the crimes in A Dark Redemption are cringingly horrific at times. At first I thought they may even be a little over the top, possibly the sign of a crime writer who is still up and coming and looking to make an impression through gratuitous gore.

However, once you get into the story it becomes clear that Sherez has taken great care in grounding the violence in an intricate and convincing inner story. The suspense that arises from the unraveling this internal thread takes a little while to really hook you in, but once it does it holds steady through to the story’s conclusion, which is satisfyingly unexpected. This is really the most important thing to get right with a crime novel, the page-turning element, and A Dark Redemption definitely has that.

To enjoy the pace of the narrative and the working out of the story, though, it is necessary, over the course of, roughly, the first fifty pages, to get past the fact that the prose is really not very good at all. Some metaphors read a bit awkwardly: ‘a chair whose stuffing poked out like mad-professor hair’. Others were just bizarre, and even offensive: ‘[his knuckles were] bulbous and round like the skulls of midgets’.

Most of the writing has the feel that both these examples have, of being a tad overwritten; the descriptive writing toes the line of cliché throughout, and is only really saved by the strength of the story’s narrative traction.

In general, you can’t help feeling that this should have been written for the screen rather than the page. Much of the description, as well as reading a little awkwardly, felt like very elaborate stage directions for a crime drama. Take, for example: ‘he stared as the girl as flash bulbs popped and burst. Her body was sporadically revealed by the light then disappeared back into darkness.’ That said, it wouldn’t be a bad crime drama.

Any Cop?: This is a reasonably enjoyable crime drama once you get past the bad writing. It delivers all the points that a crime novel should, but probably not a novel for readers looking for good prose.

Felix McNulty


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