Craig Robertson,
(Simon & Schuster UK, 2016)

Many years ago, when I was quite young, my father often traveled to various affiliates of the company for which he worked. Most times, he would bring home a little souvenir from the airport where he had landed, and these treasures would be precious to me, despite the relative cheap price of the item. They were mementos of a trip that took my father away from me, and a reminder that he would come home again.

Many of us collect things, with a relative value known only to us. Not surprisingly, there are others that collect the truly bizarre, or plain evil, such as memento mortem, items from the murdered dead and their murderers.

In Craig Robertson's latest book, Murderabilia, a pregnant and bed-bound Detective Inspector Rachel Narey pursues a particular type of collecting, specifically items from murder scenes, photographs, paintings by murderers, sought via the Dark net, an invitation-only site for collectors of these horrific and ghastly items. This fascination with items from the recently dead or their murderers is an on-going phenomenon, and the Dark net is merely a modern means for obtaining these objects. Thus it is that Murderabilia is so narrowly focused on the investigation of a series of murders brought to prominence by the photos of the dead, some of which photos are taken by Narey's long-time partner, journalist Tony Winter.

Most cultures of which I am aware have versions of a bogeyman. This creature is used to scare children into good behavior, and the threat of this creature is such that its putative existence has endured for centuries. Within this book, four collectors have formed a cabal with deeper, darker secrets. And the bogeyman in Murderabilia is portrayed by Robertson as a murderer that makes real the fears of many, particularly when photos of the bodies of his victims are beamed all over the world via multimedia. Long unsolved murders of young men, homophobia and a bogeyman that lives freely among us all contrive to make Narey's difficult pregnancy, and her forced inability to actively pursue this murderer, an exciting read. It's a journey down a dark path with a startling conclusion that leaves the reader breathless.

book review by
Ann Flynt

29 July 2017

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