Death of a Murderer – Rupert Thomson

June 20, 2017 § Leave a comment

First published in the English in 2007


A murderer is dead. Billy is a policeman in the locality where the murderer’s body is being kept before it is finally cremated, and he’s pulled in to sit through an overnight shift to keep watch, to keep away prying eyes and inquisitive journalists.

What takes centrestage, though, is not so much the actual death of said murderer, but the memories and feelings that come rolling into Billy’s mind throughout his shift. It’s a killer shift, and the fact that he didn’t get to sleep before the job only makes it even more difficult for him to stay awake and sharp.

He starts imagining conversations with the spirit of the dead murderer, and for the first time in a long time, he finds himself being brutally honest with himself, allowing hidden memories to flood his mind once again.

Death of a Murderer is not so much a plot-driven book, as it is a very deep study of character. As Billy goes through his memories, and the emotions that come along with them, it’s almost like being dipped into a large bucket of really dark stuff, and you’re not sure if the dark stuff is just water without light, or if it’s really gooey stuff that will stick on you when you’re picked up from the bucket again.

It’s dark, and sometimes, it also feels a little scary. And the more honest he got with the murderer, and himself, the murkier it got for me, too.

I’ve never been a believer of the wholesome and sunshiny. I believe everyone has their dark moments, however rare, and sometimes these moments snake up to us when we least expect it. And for most of us, we don’t really want to own up to having those dark moments—we don’t like to have to face up to them, and we don’t have the courage enough to want to find out how we would feel once we do.

Billy came across as a really really lonely man. Heck, every character in Death of a Murderer was lonely. So lonely, sometimes it broke my heart. And sometimes it reached into my chest and just gave it a little squeeze, simply because those words rang so true for me.

‘Not everyone’s ambitious,’ he said. ‘I like being on the streets, I suppose. Close to the ground. Where things happen.’

‘I’m all right,’ he said, ‘I’ll be fine.’ He smiled at her through his tears. ‘It’s just that it’s difficult sometimes, and no one’s very strong, really, are they?’

It was so so lonely, this book. It was shrouded in lonely.


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