The Murder Code by Steve Mosby

A series of murders force a seasoned detective to reexamine his understanding of evil.

murder code

The Murder Code, British author Steve Mosby’s American debut, opens with the brutal but seemingly straightforward bludgeoning of a young woman on her way home from work. Detective Andrew Hicks immediately looks to her abusive ex, because he knows all murders are committed for reasons–bad reasons maybe, but reasons that make sense at the time to the killer. But when the bodies start piling up–clearly the work of the same hand or, more precisely, the same hammer–Hicks is forced to reconsider his theory. And when he receives a letter from the murderer, Hicks must confront everything he’s understood for years about the reasons people kill each other.

Story lines overlap and tangle tantalizingly in Mosby’s capable hands. The reader glimpses teasing flashes of various characters and their backgrounds before returning to Hicks’s increasingly troubled life. His pregnant wife knows there’s something Hicks isn’t telling her, but doesn’t know what, any more than the reader does. Something disturbing in his past threatens to resurface.

While other sympathetic characters are briefly sketched, Hicks is very much at the heart of this psychological thriller. Mosby expertly spools out and retracts details, keeping the reader breathless with anticipation as the body count rises and Hicks asks himself questions he thought he’d answered long ago. The Murder Code offers not only a surface-level mystery to be solved, but the deeper mystery of how the pieces fit together–and the central question of whether innate evil is real.

This review originally ran in the December 27, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 7 data points.

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