THE INQUISITOR

Written by Mark Allen Smith

Review written by Katherine Armstrong

Katherine Armstrong has worked in publishing for over six years. She is a crime fiction Editor for an independent publishing company in London.


THE INQUISITOR
Simon and Schuster
RRP: £7.99
Released: 13th September 2012
Pbk

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received The Inquisitor. As much as I love thrillers I have been known to scoot over some of the more gory scenes on occasion (sometimes there’s just too much blood and guts; no, really) and, having read the copy on the back, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about the torture of a child. However, you’ll be pleased to know that there are no gruesome scenes about torturing children.

Instead, we meet Geiger – like all good torturers and cocktail waitresses, he only has one name – a mysterious man with a murky past and a ‘strict code of honour’ (don’t they all?). He’s good at finding out the truth from people, so good that’s his job. He’s an inquisitor, and like a 16th century bishop he makes a study of the art of torture. We learn that he has tiny cuts all along his body and who inflicted these cuts and why would take up an entire episode of Oprah, or even Jerry Springer. Basically, Geiger is a loner and a man with demons but he’s also a surprising maverick with a compassionate side, as demonstrated with his adoption of a one eyed cat and his saving of Harry, his business partner, from muggers.

When Geiger’s asked to interrogate the son of a man his rather dubious client wants to find, he surprises everybody (himself included) by rescuing the boy, Ezra, and going on the run in order to protect him. He’s helped in this by Harry and Harry’s institutionalised sister, Lily. The relationship between Harry and Lily is one of the strong points of the novel. While Geiger is a taciturn man who doesn’t interact much with people in general, Harry is a warmer personality – he cares. Although caring for his mentally unstable sister has been both a financial and emotional burden on him, his relationship with her as the narrative progresses shows the reader his vulnerable side. I would have liked a few more scenes with these two as well as some more background as to why Lily became mentally ill. There are some hints but (unless I missed it completely) it’s not fully explained and at times Lily makes some mysterious comments about their shared past.

The character of Geiger pulls you in slowly and from seeming like a one-dimensional person when you first meet him, the narrative gradually unpeels layer after layer until you’re left knowing him as a fully rounded person, where he’s come from and what he’s been through. His relationship with the boy Ezra is skilfully etched as they go from kidnapper/kidnapped to a burgeoning friendship. The Inquisitor shows that underneath every torturer humanity can be found. A gripping read.

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