Hunting Evil by Chris Carter #BookReview

As roommates, they met for the first time in college. Two of the brightest minds ever to graduate from Stamford Psychology University.
As adversaries, they met again in Quantico, Virginia. Robert Hunter had become the head of the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes Unit. Lucien Folter had become the most prolific and dangerous serial killer the FBI had ever encountered.
Now, after spending three and a half years locked in solitary confinement, Lucien has finally managed to break free. And he’s angry.
For the past three and a half years, Lucien has thought of nothing else but vengeance.
The person responsible for locking him away has to pay, he has to suffer.
That person … is Robert Hunter.
And now it is finally time to execute the plan.

Title: Hunting Evil | Author: Chris Carter | Series: Robert Hunter #10 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK | Pages: 496 | ISBN: 9781471179525 | Publication date: 2nd May 2019 | Source: ARC .mobi from NetGalley

The cover of ‘Hunting Evil’ claims that it is “as addictive as a TV box-set”. It’s certainly a weirdly compelling read, but one that requires so little effort on the part of the reader that it ends up feeling insulting rather than satisfying. The box-set comparison is an appropriate one, because like many modern TV shows, ‘Hunting Evil’ spins a couple of okay ideas into something far longer than they really deserve. In this case that’s a novel of almost 500 pages that would have worked better at half that length.  

This is the tenth book in a series featuring flawed genius LAPD psychologist/police detective Robert Hunter. I haven’t read any of the others, but Chris Carter clearly has his fans. The book does start brilliantly, with a first chapter that is shocking, immediately gripping and neatly constructed. It details the aftermath of a prison escape, the fugitive being Lucien Folter, an old friend turned arch nemesis of Hunter’s. The rest of the book (some 109 chapters) is an extended battle of wits between the two, with Folter setting fiendish puzzles for Hunter to solve.  

It manages to feel fast paced whilst not actually containing much in the way of incident (there are only really four significant events in the whole book). As a result, it’s offensively bloated with pointless detail and repetition to boost the page count. Take this paragraph from an early chapter:  

At that exact moment, Kennedy felt his cellphone vibrate inside his pocket, but this time it vibrated only twice and in quick succession indicating that he had received a text message. 

Not exactly lean prose is it? 

Carter also uses cheap tricks to ramp up the tension, like writing scenes to lead you to believe one thing has happened when actually the opposite is true. Naturally he then writes the scene again from the different perspective to milk twice as many words out of it. Characters have a tendency to repeat themselves too, like the hosts on TV shows helping viewers with short attention spans remember what happened before the ads.  

The book’s biggest failing of all though, is the fact that Hunter triumphs in the end through dumb luck rather than any insight or effort on his part. Carter repeatedly tells us he is brilliant, but never gives us any real evidence of this. Instead the hero plods through the book, following the villain’s lead, as seemingly in the dark as the reader is. 

The problem is, that despite its many flaws I found myself eagerly reading the book, even while it slapped me round the face with another stupid twist or bad piece of writing. It’s frequently ludicrous and feels like it is set in a universe that looks kind of like ours but has subtly different laws of physics and chance. But at the same time, it’s so damn easy to read that I found myself turning the pages despite myself. Like the villainous Lucien Folter, I suspect Carter is a genius of manipulation, tricking his readers into thinking they’re reading a masterpiece of suspense when in reality the book is anything but that. 


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