A Mea­sure of Darkness

Real Crime - - Home Invasion - Sabina Stent

This lat­est ti­tle from Jesse and Jonathan Keller­man is not so much a psy­cho­log­i­cal study into a killer’s mind, but rather a de­pic­tion of how the process of per­sis­tence, at­ten­tion to de­tail and dili­gence proves tri­umphant when catch­ing a killer.

Deputy Coro­ner Clay Edi­son is a con­sid­er­ate man who ex­er­cises “pa­tience and diplo­macy” on the job. Yet his te­nac­ity and sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion to see a case, his or oth­er­wise, to the end has earned him one job sus­pen­sion and the nick­name “the bar­na­cle”. In this, the pro­tag­o­nist’s sec­ond out­ing, we see the com­pas­sion­ate coro­ner par­tic­u­larly af­fected by the lonely fig­ure of a Jane Doe, one of six ca­su­al­ties in the af­ter­math of a house party turned vi­o­lent, and the painstak­ing meth­ods he takes to en­sure that the anony­mous woman is iden­ti­fied and her as­sailant brought to jus­tice.

Rich on de­tail and char­ac­ter study as op­posed to gra­tu­itous vi­o­lence or ex­ces­sive blood­shed, the Keller­mans take the reader into Edi­son’s world, com­plete with all of the idio­syn­cra­sies and reg­u­lar­i­ties of his pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life. We see the sen­si­tiv­ity and re­spect he has for the de­ceased, in­clud­ing a trans­sex­ual woman wear­ing white an­gel wings who he’s de­ter­mined to see buried with dig­nity. It’s a plot that doesn’t par­tic­u­larly speed along or feel hur­ried, yet main­tains pace and in­trigue as Edi­son painstak­ingly un­cov­ers iden­ti­ties and lo­cates the dece­dents’ fam­i­lies and friends.

The di­a­logue is of­ten sharp and snappy, fluc­tu­at­ing be­tween the tech­ni­cally de­tailed and very spe­cific, to the con­ver­sa­tions and col­lo­qui­alisms of fam­ily life and col­leagues at work ( the coro­ners re­fer to them­selves as “the meat peo­ple”). As a re­sult, we see a man who main­tains ex­cep­tional pre­ci­sion and per­cep­tion at work, but who is less than suc­cess­ful in the area of gift- buy­ing and his girl­friend’s per­sonal taste.

This is a crime thriller with a cur­rent agenda: a com­men­tary on gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, the dig­i­tal age and our vi­o­lent world (“young peo­ple are dis­pro­por­tion­ately likely to die of vi­o­lence”) and the help­less­ness of not be­ing able to stop it (“deep down, we know we’re pow­er­less). Pow­er­less, yes. But al­ways benev­o­lent.

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