Review: Red Light by Graham Masterton (4/5)

Tuesday 3 June 2014

In a grimy flat in the city of Cork, a burly man lies dead on a bloodstained mattress. His face is unrecognisable: seven gunshots have shattered cartilage and bone. Yet DS Katie Maguire, of the Irish Garda, knows exactly who he is. Amir Xaaji Maxamed, a Somali pimp she has unsuccessfully been trying to convict for years.

Katie knows it's her job to catch the killer. But Maxamed was an evil man who trafficked young girls into Ireland to be sold for sex, and now that he's dead, the city is a safer place. When a second pimp is killed, Katie must decide. Are these vigilante murders justified? And how can she stop them spiraling out of control?

My first Graham Masterton read but definitely not my last! Of this crime fiction series of his anyway. Over the last few months I have read some absolutely brilliant crime fiction books set in Northern Ireland, specifically Belfast and Dublin and so was both excited and intrigued to read this book set in the Republic, in Cork. As a prolific reader of crime fiction certain elements of it can get repetitive and I really enjoyed reading about Irish policing.

Our main character in this book is Detective Superintendent Katie McGuire and I liked her immensely. Some authors tend to create the bog standard male detective, macho, usually with a drinking problem and usually an unwillingness to follow orders from their superiors. And so I especially like reading books where the main detective is a woman. Having not read the previous books I obviously didn't know anything about Katie going into the book but Masterton tells the reader enough to bring us up to speed and also to make us want to rush and read the previous books. For that reason it can definitely be read as a standalone.

The book opens with an estate agent and his client checking out a property when they come across a foul smell. Thinking it to be rotting food from the previous owners they enter one of the rooms to find that it is in fact the rotting body of a man with his hands cut off and his face blasted away. Hovering over the man is a scared, half-naked girl. Straight off the bat Masterton does not hold back with the very vivid descriptions of how the man was murdered. For me, the gruesomer the better, but definitely not for the faint hearted. Especially as the book progresses and we are treated to even more brutal and gruesome murder scenes.

It turns out that the man is in fact a pimp, and when more men across Cork are killed in similar ways it becomes clear that someone out there won't rest until they have cleared the city of its pimps. Katie has to question whether she actually wants to catch this person who is really just making the city a better place, right? I found myself wondering the same thing. The men who are being killed are vile men who think nothing of bringing girls, some children, into the country and selling them for sex against their will.

Masterton is a wonderful writer. The book really was a joy to read. Usually I am put off reading books over 400+ pages unless it's by an author I have previously read. However the 439 pages in this book flew by. I loved the setting which has been captured perfectly, especially in the dialogue between the characters. In terms of the plot it was quite a simple one. Not hard to guess the reasonings behind the murders but still a good read from beginning to end that I would recommend to all crime fiction fans. I'll definitely be hoping to get around to the first two in the series sooner rather than later.

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