The Ladykiller


Name: The Ladykiller

Author: Martina Cole

Year: 1993

Genre: Crime, Thriller

A while ago I reviewed the first Martina Cole novel, Dangerous Lady and I have read some of her other novels in the past so I thought I would read a couple more and what intrigued me about this novel is that she actually writes from the perspective of the police rather than the criminal underworld she normally writes about.

The novel however actually begins with George Markham, to the outside world he is an ordinary man, though he is frequently berated by his wife and is about to be threatened with redundancy. However he also has a dark secret – in his garden shed is a collection of hardcore porn magazines depicting violence against women. Over the early chapters we see his behaviour escalate as he leers over women around him, before visiting a sex shop where the owner, Tony Jones sells him snuff movies. He also begins to be a peeping tom to a woman on an estate in Grantley, before stalking and killing his first victim, Geraldine O’Leary

In the meantime we meet DI Kate Burrows, a divorced detective inspector who lives with her mother Evelyn and her daughter Lizzy, who she had from her marriage to Dan Burrows. Dan is a womanizer and flits in and out of Kate’s and Lizzy’s lives whenever he falls out with the woman he is with.

Kate is put on the investigation of the murder of Geraldine but soon afterwards George strikes again, murdering a young woman named Mandy Kelly and is given the nickname The Grantley Ripper.

Mandy Kelly’s father, Patrick Kelly, is a repoman and one of London’s most infamous gangsters. When Kate meets him however, they are drawn to each other and as Kate’s investigation proceeds, her fondness for him grows and begins a relationship with him.

As the worlds of law and order collide, will Kate catch the Grantley Ripper or will he end up being her undoing?

I will begin my review with some of the positives of the story. The character of George Markham is actually very well developed throughout the novel and it does show Cole is at her best when she is talking about characters from the underworld which is what I have experienced in her previous novels. The most terrifying thing about George is to many of the other characters he just seems to be a quiet little man, which makes his dark secret more terrifying as no one suspects he could be capable of murder.

I also like Cole does have some interesting ideas as she writes about George’s slow descent from being an observer through the violent porn he owns to becoming a participant. I also think there is some interesting commentary here that is still relevant almost 30 years on from the books publication about internet porn and it’s effect on men’s attitudes towards women. Cole also explores George’s troubled upbringing which makes you ask the question of whether it was nature or nurture that turned George into a violent killer?

However, the character of Kate Burrows is where I think the book has a big problem. She is presented as a tough-talking, strong independent DI at the beginning of the novel yet once she meets Patrick Kelly she is constantly pining after him and it is somewhat a cliché as she frequently says that she knows it will end in tears, yet she can’t help but “want” him and this constant back and forth throughout the novel is ridiculous and doesn’t feel in keeping with her character.

At times as well the novel felt overly long and drawn out where I was just thinking is it going to get to the end yet but then somehow George would find a way out of the corner set before him and the story would continue – almost like a drawn out soap opera plot line where the killer hasn’t been caught yet. Cole also makes use of a “secret smile which barely shows his teeth” throughout the novel which does sound a bit cheesy.

Overall though the novel has some interesting ideas, I wouldn’t really recommend this book as it isn’t one of Martina’s best.

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