“The Feathers” by RC Heydn is an intense serial killer thriller. The horrors of the crimes start in the first chapter and continue throughout. I was immediately hooked and had difficulty setting it down to go to sleep. The last line at the end of chapter one was so gripping and unexpected I sat open mouthed for several minutes before continuing.
The story takes place in London and the author takes great pains to describe the settings and familiarize the reader with the locations. By describing the various settings he draws the reader deeply into the story. Even someone unfamiliar with London is able to visualize the streets, the pubs, the transportation system (the Tube).
There are some very interesting interactions between the characters, some left a bit unresolved. But this is no way detracts from the book. Occasionally told from the perspective of journalist, Zack Tighe, most of the story is related in an omniscient voice. Besides Tighe the main characters are Detective Inspector David Maguire, his partner Martin Walden, and of course, the killer.
Maguire and Walden are investigating the murders of four women when the story begins, four women who have obviously been tortured and partially dismembered before their deaths. Their bodies had been disposed of around London and its outskirts and there is no connection between them other than their horrifying deaths.
The killer, Alec Bartholemew, is conducting what he calls “experiments”. While the anticipated results of the experiments are never explicitly defined it is obvious Bartholemew is insane. Using a bizarre method to choose how his subjects should be dismembered he methodically removes body parts. Most puzzling to the detectives is the care that is given to the victims after they have lost some portion of their anatomy and are still alive. In addition the killer feeds his victims and it is always the same tasteless broth, often containing bits of bone and gristle. This nourishment is the one part of the book I wish the author had explained more clearly. It isn’t until the very end of the story that a full realization of what he was doing becomes obvious.
As the victim count rises and the police become frustrated Maguire takes the unusual step of taking journalist Tighe into his confidence in an effort to lure the killer out into the open. The relationship between the detective and the journalist is strained to say the least. This is due not only to their mistrust of one another but also because it’s apparent to Maguire that Tighe is attracted to his wife Joan. In fact it is Joan Maguire who sets the collaboration into effect, suggesting both men would have something to gain from working together.
In the end it is intense detective work that exposes the killer. The final chase is sometimes a bit confusing and hard to follow but this only adds to the realism of the story.
There are some minor spelling errors and missing words in the book but they in no way affected my enjoyment of the story. All in all this is a well written crime story with interesting characters and a solid plot. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a thriller.