Faletti, Giorgio - 'The Killer in My Eyes' (translated by Howard Curtis)
In a fairly typical start to a crime novel, the first chapter describes the initial victim of a series of murders: Jerry Ko, an artist who indulges in painting with his body (together with that of his one-night stand). After his new girlfriend has left following their one night of paint-filled passion, the killer knocks and enters. It is clearly someone familiar, someone whom Jerry knows from the past. Moreover, the killer calls Jerry, ‘Linus' from the cartoon strip 'Charlie Brown' and this also turns out to be significant. When Jerry's friend LaFayette finds the body later, Jerry is sitting against the wall, with his right thumb in his mouth, and his left hand is holding a blanket to his face, just as Linus is drawn in the cartoon. The murderer has also left a coded message in a speech bubble drawn on the wall behind the victim, that is a clue to the next victim.
Once the body is found, it turns out that Jerry Ko's real name is Gerald Marsalis, and his father is Gerald Marsalis, the major of New York. He calls his brother, Jordan Marsalis, and asks him to personally head up the investigation. Jordan is initially reluctant, as he has recently left the New York police under some sort of shadow, and is about to leave New York as well, even letting out his apartment. But eventually he decides to help. He decodes the message, which says 'The doctor is in', a reference to another character, Lucy, in the Charlie Brown comic strip, and begins to suspect that there will be one, if not more murders ahead. After meeting with his brother, he heads back to his apartment, to find that his new tenant has arrived early. Lysa is a beautiful woman with a strange secret, that later becomes important to the story.
Up until this point, this is fairly standard thriller/crime fiction stuff. But then the action switches to Italy, and a cop, Maureen Martini, part Italian, part American sees her lover killed in front of her as revenge for her own shooting of a criminal. Moreover, she is so badly beaten around the head, that her sight is compromised. To complicate matters, it turns out that Maureen is a 'tetragamete' (two eggs, fertilised by two different sperms, and then the two embryos fuse very early on). To save her sight, she has to go to New York to receive a corneal transplant, together with embryonic stem cells from a compatible donor that will inhibit the immune response, preventing rejection, from a leading eye consultant. (This is all scientific mumbo jumbo that is somewhat science fiction).
Knowing who has just died, one can guess the origin of transplanted cells, and thus the title of the book 'the killer in my eyes'. As Jordan proceeds to solve the murders using standard detective approaches, Maureen gradually realises that the flashbacks she has after the operation are those of the 'donor' and she can see images of the killer. I think this has to qualify as one of the most ridiculous and contrived plot lines I've read for quite some time. Anyway, somehow, she manages to persuade Jordan that she's not completely mad, and persuades him that she can help, and then the two detectives work together to find the murderer and motive. Lucky really, as the killer is so clever at covering up his tracks, there is very little else to go on.
There are quite a few surprises and secrets to be uncovered in the book, and the plot forges ahead at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, many of these surprises are as ridiculous as the ones already mentioned above, and yet without them, the murders would not be solved. For example, it is completely unbelievable that Maureen would be able to 'see' the images of the killer as a result of her transplant, (as apparently somehow the transplanted corneas have retained the memory of the victim) and yet without this plot device, the murderer's identity would remain a mystery. Many of the plot twists are equally unbelievable, and so contrived, that it is both frustrating and laughable that they are used. It's a shame, as the author clearly knows how to write a good exciting story, even though the plot concerns a rather typical set of revenge killings and is not particularly novel. But the use of these ludicrous plot drivers let the book down completely for me, and I won't be rushing out to read another Faletti book.
Michelle Peckham, England