Tom Vaughan MacCaulay ~ Countdown to a Killing
London, Sicily, Huddersfield 2016–2017:
Wen Li is a deeply kind and sensitive twenty-nine-old British-Chinese woman who suffers from severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which manifests itself in an incessant, overwhelming fear that she might have murderous impulses.
Unlucky in love and emotionally scarred, Wen falls for colleague, Lomax Clipper, a tremendously frustrated and delusional Englishman. He’s in love with a Sicilian young woman he met while working in Italy, but he and Wen do share a mutual loathing of their boss, Julian Ponsonby.
Julian’s struggling too – with a toxic relationship and his father’s refusal to accept his sexuality. On his return to Sicily, via a sabbatical, Lomax befriends Fifi de Angelis, a vulnerable Sicilian man with restricted growth who has been ostracised by his family.
This was an interesting concept… a book that gives no hint whatsoever about a murder taking place and instead provides us with the events leading up to it, in a series of personal conversations between the characters.
At first I enjoyed this. It’s well-written and engaging and I was gripped. The initial level of detail is helpful and it was good to get to know the dynamics between the colleagues and also to learn more about them as time went on. Each had their own worries and challenges, but hearing their perspective allowed us to empathise with them.
After a while it did seem to be words for the sake of it and less information would have sufficed. My interest waned and it took me a long time to get through the second half. The characters started to become irritating and I wanted to shake them at times for not being more assertive.
The ending, when it comes, feels a little disappointing and could have benefited with a bit more detail.
Overall, a good idea, but it isn’t quite as well executed as others of a similar style.