In order to discover your future, you must explore the past.
Such is the standard literary journey – a hero must delve deep into their murky backstory or the sins of the past, in order to forge a path forward or to save lives being threatened in the current day. The latter forms the latest novel from prolific crime writer William Hussey, titled Killing Jericho. How auspicious!
This is the first in a new series, introducing the dark and gritty world of Scott Jericho, a former detective who, replete with mandatory dark backstory and fresh from a stay at His Majesty’s finest, is shaken from his post-prison malaise by a series of brutal murders that echo a piece of Traveller history.
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The crime genre is filled with stories like Jericho’s – one can take a peek at the works of Val McDermid, Stuart McBride, or Helen Fields to find stories overflowing with deeply-flawed yet righteous investigators, labyrinthian plots, and murders macabre enough to turn David Fincher’s stomach (there are, this reviewer must report, some in Killing Jericho, that wouldn’t have been out of place in his seminal Se7en). It’s a credit then that Hussey, drawing upon family experience within the GRT community and history, crafts a story with a unique premise and hook, steeped in Traveller lore, from a social group sorely unexplored and woefully misunderstood by the wider UK population.
Hussey should also be commended for creating an openly, overtly queer protagonist; Jericho’s introduction finds him fresh from a meaningless hook-up, and some time is taken to explore how Jericho came out to his family and community, still regarded as a relatively conservative populace. Equally, his queerness isn’t mere window dressing; the heart of this first instalment finds itself in the relationship between Jericho and Ben, a former love thrown back into life, a messiness that proves an interesting counterpoint to the scant few queer detectives out there (such as Ann Cleves’ troubled yet steadfast Matthew Venn).
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If there’s any complaint to be found in Killing Jericho, it’s in how a lot of the structure feels very similar to books that have come before it. This isn’t to say that the reader will know the killer’s identity before the first chapter ends, but it is to say that so many of the beats (troubled detective with a dark yet noble backstory, grisly and cinematic kills, a plethora of lightly-sketched suspects) feel as if pulled from a dozen other thrillers without any of the subversion or updating that Jericho himself was given during the writing process. The ending too, is of note; without spoiling anything, when the inevitable denouement arrives, it threatens to buckle under the weight of its own story, and it’s only down to Hussey’s skill as a writer that it even remotely works.
Fortunately, however, that ending does stick the landing, leaving us with a solid, gritty, and dark whodunnit that builds upon its unique premise and sets up a new, notable detective series. Killing Jericho isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s an entertaining page-turner with an ending that, if nothing else, will have even the most flint-hearted of readers eager to find out quite what happens next…
Killing Jericho is out on 27th April from Zaffre/Bonnier Books.