Written by Maxime Chattam

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.

Gallic Books
RRP: £6.99
Released: 3rd March 2012
Pbk Original

I absolutely loved this book. I don’t know if it was because it was only thirteen short chapters (fifteen if you count the prologue and the epilogue) and could fit easily into my bag to be read on the tube, or if it was just that the story was so engrossing and the character of Lamar was so well-drawn.

A tall African American New York police detective, he is familiar in that you’ve seen similar characters on TV or read about them, but Lamar isn’t easy to typecast. He’s clever, diligent and larger than life. Yes, there are a few standard ‘police detective’ stereotypes going on: he lives for the job and doesn’t do the politics so is a bit of a maverick, but his relationship with his sort-of partner Doris is sweet without being a clichéd ‘will they, won’t they’ cliffhanger.

Carnage explores unfortunate familiar territory – American high school massacres – but brings its own unique twist that separates it from being another take on We Need to Talk About Kevin. How Lamar comes to the conclusions about the perpetrator is insightful but the final confrontation proves that there are things that even he didn’t see coming. As it’s not a long read the pace is frenetic and that adds to the suspense and helps you feel as if the investigation is being played out right in front of you, almost in real time. This is helped by short, staccato sentences and paragraphs.

While teenage students going on the rampage heavily armed has tragically become, while not the norm, a recognisable picture on our TV screens and in our reading material, Carnage takes the character of the misunderstood teenager, the social outcast who has perhaps been bullied and who doesn’t fit in, and uses our pre-conceptions to take us on a different journey. What if the misunderstood teenager who has gunned down his classmates and teachers is a victim too? What if he didn’t actually do it?

Suicide or murdered? Killer or victim?

Read it and find out.

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