SILK CHASER - Peter Klein
SILK CHASER is the third novel set within the Australian Racing Industry by ex-strapper, trainer and punter Peter Klein. These books, unsurprisingly, have a fantastic sense of place and reality within that setting, covering the difficulties and vagaries of the Sport of Kings from exactly those viewpoints - strapper, trainers and punters as well as bookmakers, stewards, security and other people who work in and around the tracks and horses, through to the occasional racetrack visitors - the full range of hangers-on.
In SILK CHASER there are all these sorts of characters, and a serial killer. Targeting young, female strappers somebody is killing them brutally. The affect of this gets particularly close to Klein's central character - John Punter - when a strapper from his father and brother's stables is one of the victims. Punter is not the only person worried about this killer though, but then he's also worried about the relationship he's developing with new girlfriend Maxine.
The settings of these books, and the characters who populate those settings are just terrific. Granted my experience of the racing industry is pretty limited, and from a long-time ago, but everyone just rings so very true. And that's consistent for all the characters - from the socialite girlfriend to Punter's pickpocket mate. The settings are spot on as well - Punter moves around from track to track, and off track to home, his Pizza restaurant, and through a set of social events all over Melbourne with great aplomb, and with a wonderful laid back, laconic sense of Australian humour and wry observation.
Unfortunately, what doesn't work so well in SILK CHASER is the serial killer element. Now I will admit to a profound boredom about the whole being in the head of the serial killer thing - let's face it, it has been done to death. Having said that, it can still work provided the reader does feel like they are truly in the killer's head, or gets the feeling that the killer is one very scary individual. Unfortunately in this book I never really felt like I was hearing an authentic voice, and because of that the killer wasn't a particularly foreboding presence, despite the high body count. It isn't just a feeling of been there, done that, there was something not quite convincing about the serial killer viewpoints, the language, the tone that simply didn't work for me.
Which is a pity, as I do like the setting of these books, and I really like the character of John Punter. Perhaps this is a book for readers who don't seem to have had to spend quite as much time in the heads of serial killers as a more frequent (okay, well fanatical) reader of crime fiction. It may be that the voice will work if you're less (sadly) finely attuned to the mad, bad and most clinical of serial killer voices.
A serial killer is stalking young, female strappers. No one knows who it is, why he's doing it, or who is likely to be next. The police and the race clubs seem powerless to do anything. The women are terrified and the union is threatening to go on strike and close down the entire racing industry unless security can be guaranteed and the killer caught.
Meanwhile, John Punter's got problems closer to home to worry about. There's a protection racket afoot and his restaurant Gino's is getting lent on. Then there's his new girlfriend Maxine. Everyone says she's trouble. She's the socialite daughter of a shock-jock announcer; the biggest rating name in radio and a major client of his father's stable. And he's made it clear he doesn't want Punter hanging around...
Back at the track, as the body count mounts, Punter finds himself involved in a desperate race against time to find a crazed killer.