Saturday, October 11, 2014


THE KILLING HOUR by Paul Cleave (Random House, 2007)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

"They come for me as I sleep. Their pale faces stare at me, their soft voices tell me to wake, to wake. They come to remind me of the night, to remind me of what I have done."

Only Charlie doesn't know what he has done. His shorts are covered in blood, there's a bump on his forehead and on the news it says the two young women he was with the night before were brutally murdered. Charlie knows Cyris is the murderer - except the police don't believe Cyris exists. Nor does Jo, Charlie's ex-wife, to whom he goes for help. He desperately wants her to believe in him, and when she doesn't, he knows he must force her. As Charlie goes on the run with Jo bound and gagged in the car boot, he tries to figure out whether Cyris is real or imagined, while the killing hour approaches yet again...

THE KILLING HOUR is Cleave's second book - a totally new direction from THE CLEANER, his debut released in Australia the year before.

And what a direction it takes. Our 'hero' Charlie doesn't know what he's done. His clothes are covered in blood, there is a bump on his forehead and there are news reports that two women have been brutally murdered. Charlie knows that Cyris killed them, but nobody else knows that Cyris exists and, let's face it, Charlie's not really sure he does either. He can't think straight as long as the two victims come back to talk to him. He can't think straight as long as the sinister, weird, obsessed Cyris is pursuing him. He can't think straight so he kidnaps his own ex-wife.

Charlie really hopes that Jo believes he didn't kill those woman, but dragging her around the countryside, bound and gagged, isn't exactly the best way to win her trust. Meanwhile DI Landry is quite convinced that Charlie is his killer and he's not too fussed about whether he's got enough evidence to charge him or not. He's dying anyway - he's got few months left and he's not about to stuff around when it comes to resolving unfinished business.

THE KILLING HOUR has this marvellous, intimidating, disconcerting sense of weird, creepy, increasing tension. Sure the visions that Charlie has of the victims of the murders have a certain "woo woo" element to them, but it really doesn't matter so much. The sense that you're almost in this story with Charlie - the confusion over whether you're backtracking through the victim's lives; whether the victims are talking to Charlie; whatever is going on with Cyris and Landry - you're just gripped by this creepy, frankly scary, tension. The panic that rises in Charlie and Jo as the book screeches towards it's conclusion infects you, the reader - you're panicked - it's too late to be awake but you're not going to be turning off any lights soon - and besides that you've got to finish this book.

And you're left with one question - who is this Paul Cleave and why is he trying to frighten me half to death!

Karen Chisholm is one of the most respected crime fiction reviewers in Australia. She has been running her Aust Crime Fiction website since 2006, highlighting a plethora of authors and titles from this part of the world, to the wider world online. It is a terrific resource - please check it out. 

Karen also reviews for the Newtown Review of Books, and since 2014 has been a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel - the New Zealand crime writing award. Her reviews of New Zealand crime novels will now be shared here on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

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