Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Title: The Dart Murders
Author: James Kipling
Publisher: Global Village Publications
Pages: 145

Jane Ferrier, a 25-year-old green-eyed blonde, is killed in broad daylight, felled by a poisonous dart. A month later, Sarah is killed in a similar manner. Exactly another month later, Michelle is killed, in the same way. All the girls are attractive green-eyed blondes who face trouble in their home and love lives.

Chief Inspector Patrick Campbell is summoned to investigate the three murders. The police believe that the three deaths are the work of a serial killer. They question boyfriends, friends, family members and bystanders. Their efforts are as thorough as possible, but the collective information gathering leads nowhere.

A month from Michelle’s death, Alice is killed in a shopping mall. She too is an attractive green-eyed blonde, who has just lost her job, and has no stability in her family life or her love life. Once again the police thrash about in search of answers and clues, but fail to achieve any breakthroughs.

The book was an easy read, but that was because of the simplicity of the writing. It was too simple, the sort of thing that a first-time writer would have written. 

The author draws us into the story, piquing our curiosity about who might be the killer, but he doesn't succeed in sustaining our interest. 

All the boyfriends, and there are many of them given the instability in the girls’ love lives, have something to hide, and for a while it seems as if any one of them might be the killer. 

Another thing that I found hard to stomach was how all the boyfriends behaved in front of the police officers. At first they are afraid that they are going to be arrested, and then they comply in the interest of furthering the investigation.

The relentless questioning gives one the impression of a body of evidence being accumulated, but it is evidence that does not point to any conclusion.

The investigation itself begins after the third murder. We are not given any explanation as to why the police didn’t get its act together after the first murder, and there is no sensation of panic at the time and lives lost as a result. The police officers claim to feel frustrated, but we do not feel their frustration.

As readers, we feel no sense of emotional investment in the characters at all. The author has made absolutely no attempts to work towards character development. In fact, most of the male characters do not even have a surname, which makes it very difficult for us to see them as rounded characters with busy lives.

There are simply too many characters and hardly any description to render them real in our eyes. The back stories, whether of the victims or their boyfriends, seem haphazardly put together.

At the end of the novel, we are not filled with an overwhelming impression of “Of course, why didn’t I see it?” The so-called clues are far from obvious.

The language is stilted. There is a sense of unreality about them. People don’t really talk the way the characters in this book do. There is nothing to distinguish the lines of one character from those of another. Everyone sounds exactly alike.

There is nothing to justify the brilliance of the Chief Inspector, and even the motivation of the killer, when it is finally revealed, does not strike us as worth killing for.

The narrative voice is completely neutral throughout. I don’t know if the author was striving to achieve a clinical effect by deliberately downplaying description and character development. If that is the case, it hasn't worked.

Even though the murders happen fast enough and the cover is quite gruesome looking, we don’t feel drawn into the events that pan out through the pages.


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