Review: White Death / Author: Daniel Blake / Publisher: Harper / Release Date: December 20th
White Death is Daniel Blake’s third novel to feature Franco Patrese. The tone is set with the opening line: “It’s not hard to shrink a human head”. And just like that the reader is gripped by the lapels and thrown straight into the story.
It’s a good one, too. Bodies are being found at Ivy League colleges, each left with a tarot card in place of a head. One of them is the mother of young chess grandmaster Kwasi King, who is due to defend his title in front of the world very soon. Add to that the fact that some victims are dispatched with cool precision, while others have been killed in a frenzy – which would suggest that two separate killers are on the loose – and Patrese really does have his hands full.
White Death’s plot plays like a chess game, full of distracting moves, manipulations and sacrifices, both emotional and physical. They’re believable for the most part, with only one coincidence taking things a step too far. While there’s no supernatural horror, the nature of the murders and the killer’s grisly trophies certainly take this thriller to the edge of the genre. The pace is unrelenting, and the reader is only allowed a few pauses for breath.
My only criticisms are slight. Patrese is a good character, but we learn little about him over the course of this book. It’s no surprise; this is the third to feature him, and I’m sure those who’ve read the previous two novels won’t want to tread old ground. White Death often reads like a screenplay in places, with some pages of dialogue never expressing who is speaking, making the reader return to the start to work it out. Then there’s the end. It reads like a cliffhanger, but with nothing to follow it. It’s an apt conclusion, yet I did initially wonder if the last few pages of the book were missing.
White Death is a gripping, satisfying thriller, its horror being in the psychological state of its killers rather than more overt genre fare. While Patrese’s previous two cases are mentioned here, they’re never spoiled, and I’m sure they’re well worth seeking out.