In this, the first Thomas Haftmann book, we encounter the controlled madness of two men, one a former cop, the other a misfit and killer of women. Ex-homicide cop Thomas Haftmann is recently divorced and working as a PI. Barely surviving financially, and haunted by his own twin demons of gambling and alcohol, Haftmann gets swept up in the statewide manhunt for a killer who meets women on swingers’ websites. The murderer carries with him a voice in his head which grows stronger as his madness intensifies over the course of the year-long manhunt. And Haftmann’s own mental instability accelerates as he closes in on the killer…
There would appear to be a competition among crime writers to produce the most comfortably clichéd cop. You know the sort; difficult domestics, booze blues, world-weariness … and the inevitable redemption reveal, where our hero turns out to be misunderstood, to have a heart of gold and to spend his every waking hour dodging bullets, dodging booze and dodging brutality unbound so that he can help old ladies cross the street.
Thomas Haftmann is not like that. Not… exactly. In a crime writer competition to construct the most unlikeable hero, Thomas Haftmann wins. By a mile.
Robb White’s writing is simply superb — although better editing would help in places, as both continuity and syntax can bound around a little.
All the characters are finely drawn, and drawn with a sharp pencil, with excellent observation of the human head’n’heart. None of them is pure — purely good or purely bad — apart from the villain. That guy is stunningly scaring — consistently unpredictable and gratifyingly insane. Up there with Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, in fact.
The plot is good, the visuals exceptional and the dialogue romps along in the fine style. Everything a reader of the hard-boiled genre wants is here. I liked it so much that I bought the other two Haftmann novels, and am reading the next now. More please, Mr White.
Reviewed by Frank Westworth
Nocturne For Madness by Robb White is available at Amazon
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