Monday, September 10, 2012

Chris Culver

This review first appeared in  the Christchurch Press on Saturday Sept 8, 2012

The Abbey.  Chris Culver. 2011. Sphere.  Pp391. $27.99

Ken Strongman

“The Abbey” is Chris Culver’s first novel and it is inevitable that it will prove to be the foretaste of a successful series.  There has been so much crime fiction written that it becomes increasingly difficult to find a new angle.  But Chris Culver has done it.

Ash Rashid is a former homicide detective now working for the prosecutor’s office and attending law school part-time.  As an Arab, he is also enshrouded in the Islamic faith and if possible has prayers twice a day with his wife and daughter.  But the strictures of his faith apart, he needs one or two quick snifters to get him through his day and uses a mouthwash to keep it from his wife.

In the way of crime fiction detectives, Ash is both tough-bodied and tender-hearted.  And he is driven in his battle with Indianapolis’s forces of darkness by his previous mistakes.  Why set the book in Indianapolis?  Well, as one of the characters says, it is only six hours drive from 50% of America’s population.  One always learns something from crime fiction, if such observations can be believed.

”The Abbey” of the title is a nightclub that caters to young would-be vampires in goth garb.  The drinking of phials of blood is part of this sub-culture.  The plot of the book revolves round an interplay between said phials and the import into the USA of other phials of a liquid, agua rica, that forms a stage in the process of making pure cocaine.  Along the way, young people, including Ash’s niece, are murdered; thus his involvement.

“The Abbey” is a fast, satisfying read with nefarious criminals, corruption in high places and some iffy members of the IMPD.  There is even a highly qualified female biochemist who essentially forms a modern version of the yellow peril. Murders are made to look like suicide or made to seem committed by the wrong people.  Ash Rashid walks on the edge of the law and at one point even manages to be arrested. He is a compelling new protagonist, an Islamic Dirty Harry with a prayer mat.

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