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The char­ac­ter of Duck­worth could have made up for this: he cer­tainly has the po­ten­tial to ex­plore in­ter­est­ing ideas

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS -

fic­tion here: ev­ery­one is rather nasty and ve­nal and cor­rupt and self­ish. It is a who­dun­nit in which ev­ery­one has dun­nit to some ex­tent.

The prob­lem is that the ac­tual who­dun­nit el­e­ment, which cen­tres on the death of the di­rec­tor of the gallery where the ex­hi­bi­tion is be­ing held, is not as in­ter­est­ing or as clever as it should be. The char­ac­ter of Duck­worth could have made up for this: he cer­tainly has the po­ten­tial to ex­plore some in­ter­est­ing ideas about the way we think about mur­der and the fact that some of us – all of us? – have thought, or said, “I could kill him” or “I wish he was dead”.

But Duck­worth never man­ages to do the won­der­fully dis­turb­ing thing that Ri­p­ley does: he never makes you want him to win, you never feel charmed by him, which means all you can do is sit and lis­ten to him talk about his vile crimes and put up with him glow­ing with sat­is­fac­tion that he’s got away with them again. “A mel­low old age lay be­fore him,” he thinks at one point, and, sadly, it prob­a­bly does.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GRA­HAM JEP­SON

Tim Parks’s char­ac­ter is un­pleas­ant and set for a ‘mel­low old age’

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