Roger J Ellory, The Anniversary Man


Roger J Ellory became a collected and sought after modern crime writer when his stylish thriller, “A Quiet Belief in Angels” (2007) won an important award in France. It was only his fifth published work. “The Anniversary Man” (2009) is his seventh book, and like his others it is set in the USA. This is a clever and absorbing detective story with rounded characters with an investigation into a serial-killer case. But don’t be put off by the background – see the reviews. The novel further enhanced Ellory’s growing reputation. It contains an appreciation by Irish crime writer Ken Bruen which gives us insight into this extraordinary writer.

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R J Ellory became a collected and sought after modern crime writer when his stylish thriller,  A Quiet Belief in Angels  (2007) won the important Prix Roman Noir Nouvel Observateur in France. It is not a prize for relative newcomers, with Ellory short-listed against Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, Don Winslow and Carl Hiaasen. It was only his fifth published work. The Anniversary Man (2009)  is his seventh book, and like his others it is set in the USA. This is a clever and absorbing detective story with rounded characters with an investigation into a serial-killer case. But don’t be put off by the background – see the the reviews. The novel further enhanced Ellory’s growing reputation.

Plotline: Twenty years ago, John Costello’s life as he knew it ended. He and his beautiful girlfriend, Nadia, became victims of the deranged “Hammer of God” killer who terrorized Jersey City throughout the summer of 1984. This murderer went after young courting couples in an attempt to “save their souls.” Nadia was killed by the first blow of the hammer. John survived, but was physically and psychologically scarred to an extent that few people could comprehend. He withdrew from society, hid in his apartment, and now only emerges to work as a crime researcher for a major newspaper. Damaged as he may be, no one in New Jersey knows more about serial killers than John Costello. So, when a new spate of murders starts – all seemingly random and unrelated – John is the only one who can discern the complex pattern that lies behind them. But could this dark knowledge threaten his own life?

The Anniversary Man (2009) has several plot lines, which spread out from the vicious random attack on young courting couples in the mid 1980s. The survivor, John Costello, twenty years later is a researcher for a newspaper investigating a similar pattern of crimes. His personal struggle and ongoing attempts to find peace and contentment are simulated in other minor characters. Thus, as in the prose of Tennessee Williams and other American greats, the cast of characters and dialogue pick up on each other and reverberate throughout. It is hard-boiled with heart and soul. This edition was issued in a run of just 70 signed & numbered copies with an appreciation by Irish crime writer Ken Bruen. In his appreciation Bruen tells us why Ellory is such an extraordinary writer. He also says, “ Scorpion Press have selected R J Ellory for this special edition. Believe you me, to a writer, to be Scorpioned ….. is as good as winning an Edgar”.

5.00 out of 5

3 reviews for Roger J Ellory, The Anniversary Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Rose on Goodreads on June 25, 2012 :

    Rose on Goodreads gave it 5 stars
    R.J. Ellory once again captivates my attention well into the long hours of the night with this extremely engaging read. Serial killer genre is one of my favorite, but they have to been over-the-top good for me to warrant them a 5 star rating. If it scares me at all, then it’s more than good. This one did just that.

    In 1984, 16 year old, John Costello meets 17 year old Nadia and young love blooms along with the sexual awakenings of young teens in the heart of New York city. To some innocent, but to one it’s offensive and that would be the Hammer of God serial killer who has already killed other young couples and now has his eye on Nadia and John. She is immediately killed while John survives the attack.

    Jump forward to 2006. A serial killer is once again stalking New Yorkers and it’s up to Detective Irving to find and stop him. However being short of staff and stretched on nerves, he employs the help of a newspaper researcher, John Costello, who has unnerving insight into serial killers as well as able to put Irving onto the sub-subculture of those who collect memorabilia of these kinds of killers who might be able to help give a trail to the killer. Karen Langley plays the boss and friend of John Costello and feels not only protective of John, but feels an affection for Det. Irving and puts her in the middle of this mutli-layed thrill ride.

    I am not going to go into any more details lest I give it away. Anniversary Man, unlike A Quiet Belief in Angels, is not quite so lyrically written, it’s more hard-boiled detective novel. However, unlike the true hard-boiled novel this one has a heart and soul. I love these characters and all their flaws and issues. Ellory has a way of breathing such life into the people he creates, they literally jump off the pages. This includes the killer. The descriptions of dying to me were horrifying and real. When NAdia is killed by the Hammer of God, the way he describes her death was so awful, I had to sit down. Another part of this book that got to me was another murder (no details) but Ellory allows you in enough to know the victims and peek at their lives enough to care. This was difficult was me and I found I just couldn’t read it at night anymore LOL! Too scary.

    I highly recommend reading this well structured, mutli-layered, hard-boiled book. It’s really more about it’s people than the killer them-self. Another reason to like it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Barry Forshaw, The Independent on June 25, 2012 :

    Barry Forshaw, The Independent
    The book trade has been down on its knees, praying for a replacement for the TV club hosted by Richard and Judy. The effect on sales of a mention on the show was seismic – and publishers are breathing a sigh of relief now that there will be a replacement.
    A celebrated example of this Midas touch was R J Ellory’s A Quiet Belief in Angels. Ellory watched in amazement as his career went through the roof. Of course, such dizzying success carries a price. Reader expectations for successive books were high, and the massive authority of that book (not to mention its ambitious panorama of American society: Ellory is a Brit who sets his books in the US) made it a hard act to follow.
    How does The Anniversary Man, the latest successor, measure up? Ellory is skilled at cinematic narratives and has an overt passion for old movies. This novel brandishes his filmic consciousness.
    John Costello and his girlfriend, Nadia, suffered a horrific attack from the psychopathic “Hammer of God” murderer in New Jersey in summer 1984. Nadia died, but John survived at the price of deep psychological incapacity, working as a crime researcher for a newspaper. Now Detective Ray Irving is working on the death of a 15-year-old girl along with reporter Karen Langley. Her source is the damaged John Costello. Inevitably, all three unite to track down a psychopath.
    Some Ellory aficionados have been disappointed that the heightened poetic style of A Quiet Belief in Angels has not been utilised to any great extent in his other books. The prose here is largely blunt and functional, but always at the service of the author’s assertive narrative style. His cinematic evocation of US locales is fully in place – and he knows exactly what he’s doing. Costello, for instance, is a strikingly realised character. It’s a cliché to praise a crime novel for its adroit marshalling of suspense, but there is no choice here: with The Anniversary Man, that’s the signal achievement.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Maddy on Goodreads on June 25, 2012 :

    Maddy on Goodreads gave 5 stars
    As depressing as it may be, success often leads to a rash of imitators which leads to a reduction in quality which ultimately results in failure as the market suffers from fatigue of an overdone concept. Do you feel like you never want to hear about another vampire? Do you want twenty more forensic cop shows on TV? Many crime fiction fans have given up on serial killer books, as they’ve become very derivative and only become unique by being more bizarre than their predecessors. But then someone comes along with a new take on a tired concept, and we have faith once again. Such is the case for THE ANNIVERSARY MAN by R. J. Ellory. Oh yes, there is a serial killer, but the focal point of the book is on the investigation of his crimes rather than a deep dive into his damaged psyche.

    In a city as large as New York, homicide is a daily occurrence. It’s not that murder becomes routine; but when it does happen, a homicide detective for the precinct involved works the case. It would be very difficult for the detective to connect the case to any others occurring around the city unless there was a signature used by the killer. Detective Ray Irving doesn’t realize that he is dealing with a serial killer on his latest case until he is shown a draft of a newspaper article which links several deaths around the city. The signature is truly unique—the killer is imitating famous serial killers and replicating their crimes on the dates that they originally occurred; ergo, “The Anniversary Man”. He is not copying one killer, but several.

    John Costello is a crime researcher at the paper and an expert on serial killers since he is a surviving victim of “The Hammer of God”, who managed to kill two couples and John’s girlfriend many years before. He is part of a group of serial killer survivors who recognize the pattern used by The Anniversary Man. Costello is a deeply private man; Irving often suspects that he may actually be the killer himself. The killer does seem to want attention and provides a few clues about his upcoming plans, which lead to horrifying suspense as the killings unfold.

    What I really liked about this book was what Ellory did NOT do. He did not dedicate individual chapters to be told from the serial killer’s point of view. We actually know very little about the murderer. We don’t learn about his mummy issues. We don’t learn about his childhood problems or ghastly physical appearance. What we do learn is what is revealed in the investigation.

    Ellory also excels at creating characters who are three-dimensional. Ray Irving and John Costello share a kind of loneliness that infuses the page. The newspaper editor, Karen Langley, provides a nice contrast to the two men; and it feels like Irving’s boss, Captain Faraday, could step off the page. The dialogue is completely real. I’m impressed that Ellory, who is from the UK, did such a great job in detailing the New York setting and police procedures. It was flawless. His research on the real serial killers was seamlessly woven into the narrative and provided another layer of interest in addition to the present day crimes. The only nit I have to pick is that the resolution wasn’t totally credible, with the principles ignoring red flags all over the place.

    THE ANNIVERSARY MAN was an engrossing read, and I highly recommend it. Put aside your doubts about the serial killer thing – you will be rewarded with a suspenseful and involving reading experience.

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