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Monday, July 14, 2014

Luther by coincidence

In the weekend, having just blogged about the Luther TV series being nominated for an Emmy, I was jogging through the Wellington Central Library when a title jumped out at me.

Well, not literally.  But it stopped me in my tracks.  Good heavens, I thought, there is a book of the Luther series?

So I carried it home and read it.  It's un-put-down-able -- though there was one stage when I was calling desperately for a cup of tea, and then later on for something a little stronger, as you really do need something reassuring in your hand.  The villain is so plausible, and his crimes so disgusting, that there are moments of real terror.

It is not, as I had thought, "the book of the series."  Instead, it is the prequel of the TV crime series. And I guess, as after my last blog post I had a few comments from people who said they had never heard of Luther, that I had better explain a little.  The three-season (so far) series features a driven detective who hunts down the most unspeakable criminals in the darkest underworld of London. He never sleeps, his marriage is a wreck, his associates are partly fascinated by his brilliant mind, and partly dead-scared of his barely pent-up violence.  That violence, however, is only directed at the criminals -- which of course means that Luther is constantly in trouble for breaking the boundaries.

And did I mention that Luther is played brilliantly by Idris Elba?  And that the camera work is dramatic beyond belief?  And then there is Dr Alice Morgan, the mobile-faced serial murderess played superbly by Ruth Wilson -- a wonderful creation if there ever was one.  There is the same sexual electricity between Alice and Luther that made Billie Piper (Rose) and Dr Who such a compelling combination.

Watch it.  But don't watch it alone.

Anyway, the book. The first episode of the first series of the TV show begins with a serial killer by the name of Henry Madsen dangling from metalwork high in the roof of a disused factory that collapsed while was fleeing from Luther.  Luther, with a supreme effort, could save him.  Instead, he demands to know where Madsen has concealed his latest victim, a little girl. Madsen yells the answer, but Luther wants to know where the rest of the bodies are buried, and in the process Madsen drops ... but not to die.

The book tells you what happened before this little confrontation.  You learn exactly what a travesty of a human Madsen is, what crimes Madsen committed (in detail), and the details of the hunt that tracked him down.  Told in the present tense, in short, staccato sentences, it has the power of a runaway locomotive. The scenes are set in a few, startlingly effective words. You might not know exactly what the characters look like, but you most surely know exactly how they feel. Amazing writing.

Naturally, being a fan of the series, I found the book immensely satisfying.  How would someone who hasn't watched the show react? I'm not sure, but I suspect it is just as good a book for a reader who hasn't met Luther before.

According to Neil Cross's website, the plan is for this to be the first of three books -- once he has got the screenplays written for his latest pirate series, that is.  Personally, I can't wait.

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