Fresh Blood

Name: Chris Carter

Title of Book: The Crucifix Killer

'The Crucifix Killer is a blinding debut!'

Homicide Detective Robert Hunter has a special gift. Call it intuition, sixth sense, whatever label you want to give it – he has it. As a highly intelligent man many people, including his superiors have sought his advice. Only once was his ‘gift’ ignored when the police thought they had got his man only for Robert to be proven right. Then there was the Crucifix Killer. Again they caught a man who was found with a trunk load of forensic evidence to convict and send him to the death chamber. And then everything went quiet.

Two years later a young woman is found – her face surgically peeled off her face. The removal of her face hadn’t killed her. In fact, she had been alive after the procedure. In fact, she had been beaten to death over a long period of time. A sick killing by any standards but the thing that makes Robert’s hairs stand on end is the sign etched on to the back of the victim’s neck. The sign of a double cross. The sign of the Crucifix Killer. But he’s dead – executed two years ago. Did they have the right man or is this a copycat killing. But the double cross was never made public knowledge – so it is someone who was close to the original killings.

With his new partner, Garcia the two men are led through a game of cat and mouse – the killer in contact with Hunter, goading him to find the real solution to these killings. But then people very close to Hunter start to get hurt and he realises too late that the killer has been watching his every move.

People often ask what is the criteria for a new author to be nominated at our Fresh Blood Author of the Month. What I look for is good writing and a brilliant plot that captures me so that I can’t put the book down until the last page is read. I want to be thinking about it so that whether I’m at work or out and about I can hear that book calling to me to read more. You become slightly obsessed - as any regular reader of crime fiction can become. However, that isn’t a bad thing. This is exactly what The Crucifix Killer did for me.

The story starts off with a bang - the discovery of a woman tortured to death. The story is an extremely grim one but one that captivates you, hurtling you along with Robert Hunter and his new rookie partner, Garcia. Hunter is a fractured character - highly intelligent, a child prodigy who had the world at his feet. A family tragedy makes him decide to enter the police force to capture killers and keep society safe. But he is also a burned out man - still mourning the death of his old partner and a crippling workload. Yet, he is still capable of flashes of brilliance with his natural ‘gift’. For me, Hunter is a character who I look forward to watching develop and to seeing how his partnership with Garcia matures.

The Crucifix Killer is a blinding debut! It only took me a matter of days to put this one to bed as the stakes became higher and higher for Hunter and co. I am sure you will say the same thing once you open that first page of this excellent debut.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
I guess most writers don’t like to label their writing, but there’s no running away from it, what I write is commercial crime thrillers. And I do it consciously.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I love reading crime thrillers – any style – forensics, psychological, gory, historical, true, etc. As for series or standalone, it really doesn’t matter to me. I love good, entertaining stories. If it looks interesting, I’ll read.
3) The Crucifix Killer starts out with a gruesome murder. Did you decide from the outset that you were going to write quite so graphic a crime novel?
In the case of The Crucifix Killer I had nothing decided. I simply started writing, the ideas started coming and I put them down on paper. I didn’t even think it was that gruesome until everyone who read it started asking me how I came up such grisly murders.
4) People say that the ‘Serial Killer’ genre has been done to death (pardon the pun!). How did you feel you could bring freshness back in to the sub-genre?
The truth is that I didn’t. I didn’t write The Crucifix Killer because I wanted to create something new or different. I just wanted to write a crime novel that I would enjoy reading if I’d bought it in a shop. Basically - “Let me see if I can do it” kinda thing. When I started writing the novel, my prime intention wasn’t to get it published, it was just to write a book.
5) Robert Hunter is an intriguing character with his ability to know when people are lying. Such a character has also appeared in the TV series, ‘Lie To Me’ with Tim Roth. Do you think crime is edging towards the psychological part of the investigation? What made you want to give this ‘gift’ to your character?
I think there are a lot of people obsessed with trying to come up with something new and different – trying to find a new angle to crime – something that would get the critics talking. I think that some people forget that in the end, it’s still about a police investigation and making the story interesting. Robert Hunter doesn’t have the specific gift of knowing when people are lying. He is a criminal behaviour psychologist turned detective, so he observes people’s behaviour, and that tells him a lot about the people he deals with. The main reason I made Hunter an ex-behaviour psychologist is because that’s what I am, and I believe writers can usually write better stories using things they know and are familiar with.
6) You are an American now living in London. The Crucifix Killer is based in Los Angeles. Do you have a connection with the place or did you feel that America was a more apt location than London for this story?
I’m not American. I’m Brazilian. I studied in American schools when I was young and then moved to the USA for university. English isn’t even my first language. I have to work harder than most.

Probably the main reason why I chose LA as a setting is because I worked with the police in the USA when I was a criminal psychologist. I have a much better understanding of American police procedures than I do of British ones. That familiarity also influenced my decision on choosing Los Angeles. I lived there for several years. I know how glamorous and fascinating the city can be, and at the same time dark, dangerous and evil.
7) Are we going to see and learn more about Robert Hunter and his ‘rookie’ Garcia?
Yes. I’m at the moment editing the second novel (working title – Brutal) and Hunter and Garcia are back (though Garcia is not a ‘rookie’ anymore). If you thought The Crucifix Killer was gruesome - get ready.
8) Do you see any trends in Crime and Thriller novels for 2009 and beyond?
There probably is one, but I’m not sure. There’ve been a lot of forensics novels out there. There’s also been an increase in Scandinavian crime novels, but I don’t know if you can call it a trend.
9) Who would be your dream cast of movie actors for an adaptation of your story?
To bring the punters in – Bred Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.
10) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Okay, that’s very hard, especially because you said “of all time”, but I really like the twist at the end of The Avenger by Frederick Forsyth.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Probably - The Silence of the Lambs. My favourite crime movie is Seven, but that wasn’t a book.
12) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
As I said before I read most things I like the look of, from historical to crime and romance.

I really admire Frederick Forsyth, because he can make even the dullest of things sound interesting.
13) What is your favourite read crime of all time?
Now that’s tough. As an older classic I loved The Day of the Jackal.

On a more recent note – Child 44.