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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Luther: The Calling, by Neil Cross (hardcover, $25)

This is a greasy, grimy gopher guts and mutilated monkey meat of a book. For years, agents and publishers would caution writers, don't harm animals or children in your books; the public won't buy it. Neil Cross saturates his book with dead, dying, tortured, and emotionally fractured animals and children. So there! Cross' novel is almost parodic, except the anguish he generates can be viscerally felt by the reader.

Although this novel was written in 2011, it is the prequel to Cross' hit television series, "Luther," which first aired in 2010. The first episode of the first season of that series picks up exactly where this novel leaves off.

Cross is a very good storyteller. He grabs for the reader's attention, strangles him for a while, then pops a surprise in his face. It's very cinematic but, unlike other adaptations of movie/tv-to-book, has a good flow. It's not just dialogue strung together.

Having come from the "Luther" series to this book, I have a very strong picture of the characters. Idris Elba's imposing presence, for instance, overwhelms whatever you might glean from Cross' writing. As a matter of fact, I don't think Cross even mentions that Luther is black until about three-fourths of the way through the book! Maybe he assumes his readers will be coming to the book from the series. I have to say, not having the option to do otherwise, that would be a great first step: watch the series.

But …

I found the book to be much grislier than the series, perhaps because there aren't as many vigilant censors to be sidestepped when writing a book. 

On the other hand …

The stories of Zoe, Luther's wife, and Ian Reed, Luther's partner and best police mate, are revealed. It gives a little more understanding to what they do in the series.

It was a throat-closing read, but magnetic in its pull.

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