Halifax: Transgression by Roger Simpson

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Having been a fan of the Halifax TV Series, starring Rebecca Gibney as Dr Jane Halifax, this book was greeted with considerable excitement. The author, Roger Simpson, is an award-winning screen writer, creating both the telemovie series of Halifax f.p. (which ran from 1994 to 2001) and its sequel, Halifax: Retribution in 2020. For those Australians watching, they might also have heard of some of his other TV work - Stingers, Something in the Air, Silver Sun and Satisfaction.

Needless to say, if anybody knows Dr Jane Halifax it's author Roger Simpson. The question that remained was therefore how would he go moving a TV creation to the printed word. In order to do that transition he's created a plot that's based around a madder than mad serial killer, with a twist in the motivation that's revealed later in the book.

The murders here are gruesome - no other word for it. The first victim involves a very wealthy man, a very well known (and pointy) statue and a harness. Violent, ritualistic, brazen and more than a bit stomach churning. The second victim is killed in an equally "biblical" manner in a factory building late at night, with a third succumbing to some particularly nasty business in a backyard. The heart of the motivation and patterns for these killings seems to be religious, the methodology vicious and extremely calculated, the killer invisible. Inspector Eric Ringer is desperate for Dr Jane Halifax to profile the killer, but she's cautious, as a complication there's history between the two of them (and a lot of gossip), and anyway you slice it, she hates these kinds of cases, a psychopath is a psychopath after all (paraphrased from the blurb).

I think I'm on record as saying I'm more than a bit allergic to psychopathic serial killer storylines, and I will admit to struggling with the gory nature of these killings - mostly because it all seemed so inevitable. There was also something slightly bland about Jane which I don't remember from the TV series, contrasting rather jarringly with the anything but crime scenes. There's a lot of internal rumination from Jane as well - regret over her widow status and her relationship with a now absent step-daughter, her past with Ringer (and is there a future?) and it all seemed a bit predictable, and angst for the sake of angst - maybe that sort of internal dialogue works better visually, than on the page where it just seemed to go on and on.

On the investigation side, the identification of a potential suspect brings with it some of his contacts, and some slightly odd professional behaviour from Jane, whilst the police team is working hard to find somebody who is a particularly gifted actor and able to evade CCTV and modern surveillance techniques.  Eventually though, some sketchy connections between the victims start to appear, and a potential motivation, all of which ultimately lead to injuries and damage in the investigation team, and resolution to the killing spree, but no real complete answer to the why. Or the who.

I don't quite know what I think about this novel in so many ways. Love this character, wasn't convinced by this invocation though. Well and truly unconvinced by the mad bad serial killer thing, and the resolution here sort of felt all a bit "and in the next episode". Having said all of that I'd not be at all surprised to find myself on the losing side of an argument about this one - it's a book that's going to work for many many readers.

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Based on the hugely successful Channel 9 drama series featuring forensic psychologist Dr Jane Halifax, whose criminal profiling, twenty years later, might be the only way to track down Australia’s most dangerous serial killer yet.

The first murder is brazen, violent and ritualistic. Committed in the victim’s home, the killer leaves few clues as to their motive or their identity. All the police know is that the perpetrator entered the house and impaled the art collector on one of his own priceless sculptures before melting away into the night.

Inspector Eric Ringer is desperate for Dr Jane Halifax to profile the killer, but Jane is cautious. She and Eric have a past … plus, she hates these kinds of cases; a psychopath is a psychopath, any way you slice it.

But there’s something about this killer that intrigues Jane. And as the bodies pile up, Jane must use all her knowledge and intuition to enter the mind of the murderer before they strike again.

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