Title: Eye Contact
Author: Fergus McNeill
Publication date: September 13, 2012
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Length: 345 pages
Age group: Adult
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Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository
If you look him in the eye, you’re dead.
From the outside, Robert Naysmith is a successful businessman, handsome and charming. But for years he’s been playing a deadly game. He doesn’t choose his victims. Each is selected at random – the first person to make eye contact after he begins ‘the game’ will not have long to live. Their fate is sealed.
When the body of a young woman is found on Severn Beach, Detective Inspector Harland is assigned the case. It’s only when he links it to an unsolved murder in Oxford that the police begin to guess at the awful scale of the crimes.
But how do you find a killer who strikes without motive?
Eye Contact, Fergus McNeill’s debut novel has been on my wishlist ever since I first saw it on the publisher’s website. What intrigued me about this story is the fact that there’s no motive behind these murders. It’s all just a game. And even before I started reading the book, I started wondering: how do you track down someone who has no reason to kill and whose victims have no connection to each other whatsoever? As a huge crime fan I’ve read many books from the same genre but never have I encountered one where the killer’s only motive is the adrenalin rush, that strive for power and I was quite curious to see what would happen next and how the events would unfold. I had really high hopes for this one and I’m glad to say that McNeill didn’t disappoint. McNeill’s writing, unique plot and his ability to describe what’s going on in both the killer’s and his hunter’s head are equally engaging from the very beginning and I found it very difficult to put this book down.
I loved the way McNeill dealt with narration. A third person narrator tells the story of both the murderer and the police inspector in a way that the first part of each section tells the killer’s side of the events and the second half deals with the investigation process. It’s interesting how, even though it’s not the killer himself who tells us his side of story, we get to know what goes on in his mind before he decides to strike again and chooses his next victim. While he’s a totally ordinary guy with a normal job on the outside, his thoughts are that of a madman. The character I loved the most, however, was the policeman who’s working on Naysmith’s case – DI Graham Harland. Harland is still trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife and he’s quite a lonely, sad and depressed figure. I loved how much he’s changed by the end of the story and his relationship with his colleague Mendel and I hope it’s not the last we see of the two of them.
When I first saw this book I thought it would be a lot bloodier and more cruel than it actually is which was definitely a pleasant surprise. McNeill doesn’t really go into details about the victims and the forensics’ work like many thrillers and mysteries do – it rather focuses on how the police are trying to find a motive behind all this and find a link between these murders. Don’t get me wrong, it’s terrifying all the same. I had nightmares of being followed for two days straight after reading it and I’m not likely to forget this story anytime soon. But if you’re looking for the next Hercule Poirot, this one’s not for you. There’s no snooping around examining the scene of the crime, questioning suspects and witnesses and collecting evidence – that’s the point: there are no witnesses and there is no evidence. Naysmith is an incredibly clever and thorough guy whose attacks are carefully planned beforehand. He makes sure that there will be no witnesses and he doesn’t leave anything behind, not even a footprint. Which makes this book all the better: you just want to know how the police would find someone who’s as guarded as he is or what would be his downfall.
McNeill keeps you in the dark until the very end and you’ve no idea what’s about to happen. Even thirty or forty pages before the end you just don’t know if it’s ever going to end or if Rob Naysmith is going to get away with it. I loved this book from start to finish and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who likes suspense and mysteries. Eye Contact will keep you on the edge of your seat all along and keep you guessing till the very end. It’s a heart-pounding debut novel you don’t want to miss!
“He realised very early on that he’d have to set the rules. Otherwise, there would be no structure, no real challenge… and what would be the point if there was no challenge? He wondered how many others might have walked this road before him, moving unseen through society, their actions sending out little ripples over the surface of the news, while they remained quietly anonymous, hidden in plain sight.”