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THE HABIT
b
y RICHARD ARMOUR
Published by Authors On Line Ltd., 2002
Publication date 1st. September 2002
ISBN: 0755200586
http://www.amazon.co.uk/
Crime, UK
Rating 9/10


"One to save for a good night in" - Book Publicity Limited

Roger Hamilton has got it made. By day he manages a City of London broking office dealing with millions of pounds at the flick of an index. He is one of the 'golden' traders, 'master of the universe' making more money in a year than most others do in twenty. By night he has the comfort of his girlfriend or the many expensive bars, bistros, restaurants and clubs where his fellow carousers are likely to be his clients enjoying their unlimited expense accounts.

Frank, is a friend of Roger from his schooldays. He has a degree and a fast-track career with the police force. Despite the difference in their financial status, it's a friendship which endures not least because Roger has an abiding interest in criminal detection. When a serial rapist, using a black London taxi, appears on Frank's patch he discusses the case with Roger, in confidence, fuelling his interest and determination to help bring the man to justice.

The scenes with Frank are contrasted by those depicting Roger going about his daily life at the office and occasionally with his family. The office will be something of a revelation to those not versed in 'laddishness', a clear euphemism for sexual denigration and discrimination against women. The theme running throughout the citadels of high finance is use, abuse, discard. Singularly appropriate for the mentality of a rapist. Roger joins in what passes for 'banter' without giving it a second thought. The paradox is he adores his parents, his father is a former famous racing driver, and his sister. The message comes across that all women are whores, unless they're your family or girlfriend, when they become madonnas. Obviously City traders are brothers under the skin of the Italian Mafia on their most machismo outings.

When Penny, Roger's sister falls victim to the rapist, the hunt steps up and reaches a climax which leaves the reader relieved at the 'justice' of the ending, but interested to see where Roger's own predatory instincts will finally take him.

The book is written both as a narrative and in first person by Roger. This enables the author to perform cunning and adept sleights of hand which add verismo. About halfway through the work, the rapist's identity becomes known to the reader only and is carried along by the twisted logic which informs his criminality.

One of the fascinating aspects of this work is whilst it's very realistic in every respect, it is also a pastiche, a subtle mockery of all the cliches uttered about rapists. Inevitably, he blames mother for all the evils he, of his own volition, visits upon the women he attacks. 'Psycho' has a lot to answer for. This does not detract from the value of the story, on the contrary, it supplies the building blocks carrying the whole to a violent, but satisfactory, conclusion.

Richard Armour has made an impressive debut. This is a book you can read as a fast paced crime novel or an insightful psychological drama with very disturbing undertones. Throughout there is schizophrenia in the major characters. Roger and Frank, both capable of oafishness, but also of sensitivity. The rapist, paranoid as well as schizophrenic, enjoying, exploiting and living a double life. These twists of characterisation are skilfully woven together, the story developing from them as all good plots should.

Be prepared to read in one sitting.

   
Reviewed by
Book Publicity Limited
 
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