In today’s continuing celebration of Steve Mosby Week here on Musings of an All Purpose Monkey I’m reviewing Steve’s most recent release, Still Bleeding, and just when you thought there was no way he could get better, Mosby goes and blows the roof off the joint.
In his experience, people were always interested in violence – attracted to it, even – so long as it wasn’t happening to them. – Detective Paul Kearney
Alex Connor couldn’t possibly have known when his wife, Marie, left to run a quick errand one January evening that it would be the last time he’d see her alive. When she fails to return in a timely fashion he calls her cell phone, only to have it answered by a policeman; Marie, he’s informed, committed suicide by jumping from an overpass.
Overwhelmed by the loss, Alex strikes out on a trip to clear his head that ends up lasting two and a half years. He’s only eventually drawn home again by the news one of his dearest friends, Sarah, has been murdered. The police have her killer, a confession, and a blood soaked crime scene, but no body.
The bodies of other several other women have been found recently though, each of them completely drained of blood. In charge of the investigation, Detective Paul Kearney is focused on the most recent woman to go missing, Rebecca Wingate, whom he’s convinced is still alive.
Kearney’s search for Rebecca puts him on a collision course with Alex, who’s determined to find Sarah even though he knows she’s dead. What they find, however, is a twisted underworld where people gather to celebrate death and collect other people’s suffering.
Going through Sarah’s things one evening Alex discovers she had apparently been researching a project online. Further poking around reveals a list of websites that focus on photos and videos of violent death: war crimes, crime scene and morgue photos, car crashes… suicides. As horrific as the sites are in and of themselves, Alex is stunned to find a cell phone video of Marie’s death among the gruesome collection, and the scene of Alex watching the video of his wife’s death is as emotional and difficult to read as anything I’ve ever come across in fiction:
She was just standing there, barely a centimeter tall on the computer screen. A lonely figure, huddled up beside the shape of her car. Little more than a blur of tiny pixels shimmering.
The small figure extended its arms sideways and tipped its head back. She was staring at the sky. She rocked forward. The way she toppled, it was like she was moving in slow motion. But then she was tumbling through the air. The mobile followed her carefully.
There was a moment of silence that made me think of dust falling gently in the aftermath of an explosion. The second before people starting screaming, when everything is absolutely silent.
If The Cutting Crew is Mosby’s most ambitious novel, Still Bleeding is far and away the most intimate, the one whose characters will hit you the hardest. Though he visited similar territory in his debut novel, The Third Person, the three novels in between have given Mosby a chance to really hit his stride as an author, the result of which shines through in Alex and Kearney.
Even in the darkest possible situations Mosby brings a believable, subdued humanity to them that one does not often find in crime fiction. There are no overwrought hysterics or brash campaigns for vengeance, merely people so haunted by feelings of guilt and confusion, anger and obligation that they feel they have no choice but to see their investigations through to the end, despite the devastating toll it takes on them.
Right from the start with The Third Person Mosby’s writing has been confrontational; not for the sake of shocking readers, but in order to demand readers ask themselves, “Does this shock you and, if not, why not?” He’s an author who absolutely will not let readers be passive, nor will he allow them to remain within their comfort zone. He will drag you, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the very uncomfortable places most people would rather not visit.
Still Bleeding is an intensely challenging and engaging novel, one that clearly demonstrates Mosby is willing to continue to push himself, and readers, with each new offering. With five novels under his belt and just barely into his 30’s, it’s scary – and exciting – to think of what’s yet to come.
Coming Tomorrow: A review of The 50/50 Killer.