R.J. Ellory

The Anniversary Man

"...the serial killer novel to end all serial killer novels."


Twenty years ago John Costello's life effectively ended. Not yet seventeen, he and his beautiful girlfriend, Nadia, became victims of the dangerously disturbed 'Hammer of God' killer who terrorised New Jersey City throughout the summer of 1984. This madman targeted young courting couples in an attempt to 'save their souls'.

Nadia was killed by the first blow of the hammer. Then the killer turned his attentions to John, but despite his terrible injuries John survived. Physically and psychologically scarred to an extent that few people could understand he withdrew from the world, hid in his apartment and now only leaves his front door to work as a crime researcher for a major newspaper. Broken he may be, but no one in New Jersey knows more about serial killers than John Costello.

So, when a new spate of murders starts - all seemingly random and unrelated - John is the only one who can discern the intricate pattern that lies behind them. A knowledge that could once again bring mortal danger into his life.

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From the man who is incapable of writing a poor book, this is the serial killer novel to end all serial killer novels. RJ Ellory’s understanding of the intricacies of plot and character and how to allow the story to develop is second to none. Pick up his books and you will be drawn inexorably into his world from page one. The murders pile up, one upon the other. Each subsequent slaying is an almost exact copycat of another famous death... and committed on the anniversary of the original. The tension increases in the characters and in the reader. Who will die next? Will the cops stop him before he kills again? All the while, the author releases just enough detail to keep us guessing and unable to put the book aside. It is in his depiction of these deaths that Ellory shows us what a consummate storyteller he is. There is one particular “death scene” where the killer is replicating the murder of an entire family. Such was the tension and dread in this scene I was reading the book through my fingers – as if I was at a movie - while saying over and over again...no, no, no, no, no! Most novels that deal with the shock and horror of these kinds of crimes stick with the thrills, but this writer gives us the thrills along with a helping of reality. Real people suffer at the hands of these psychos and he allows us to “see” the effects such crimes have on those who are fortunate/ unfortunate enough to survive, thereby giving The Anniversary Man a strong emotional charge. This is particularly evident with poor, John Costello, a man who is only half-alive ...and fully drawn on the page. R J Ellory writes about New York like a native, which allows me to say that The Anniversary Man is so good... I had to read it twice! That is not hyperbole. The first time I read it to just get swept up in the story. The second time was to savour the flavours of New York and the finely nuanced interaction of his characters. Again, R J Ellory has given us a read that tempts the senses, engages the emotions and tickles the intellect. What can I say, but it’s a sure-fire winner and deserves to be on every award list going.

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