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I've read and reviewed a Montanari novel previously so I was looking forward to giving this a go when I came across it in the library. Although a little confusing by the end, it was an enjoyable and intelligent read that I'd recommend for crime thriller fans.
On the front cover, the tag line reads : 'He's coming to get you' on the front cover', along with 'The Sunday Times Bestselling Author' to tempt you in. The Echo Man introduces us to the precinct of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), when a man is found brutally murdered. The killer leaves a signature of some strange cut marks and a band of white paper around his head. Enter detectives Kevin Bryne and Jessica Balzano who are assigned to the case, only to discover a chilling resemblance to a murder 8 years previously, in the same place with the same MO. The old case was a cold case with a suspect but no formal resolution, so the case was never fully closed. Before we know it, more dead bodies turn up and it seems there's a killer recreating unsolved murders.
Throughout the novel we see Bryne and Balzano tracking the few clues they have, making links to past cases and trying to work out how and why the victims are being chosen. We also see some link to Bryne's very first case on the job years ago involving a talented violinist, as well as what seems like a side storyline of a girl working in a hotel. She was kidnapped years before but can't remember who the assailant was or what happened, and she attempts to bring back those hidden memories. How these two links actually tie in doesn't start to make sense and become clear until other bits of the puzzle come together.
I won't say any more on the premise, but it's an intelligent and fairly complex one when taking in to account the web of characters that's woven. I wouldn't have guessed the ending that's for sure, so it was one that keeps you guessing and wondering until the last moment. I can't say I was thrilled by the final resolution, but that's only because I ended up getting a little confused and lost in who's who. Luckily, Montanari does sum this up more clearly for us afterwards, which I think was a useful touch.
Montanari has a way of writing that's very fluid and easy to read, engaging the reader to keep reading from start to finish. He builds characters and scenes with a fairly good degree of believability, making them vivid enough to imagine. A bit more character depth at times would have been good, for instance with one of the protagonists, Bryne. We learn a bit about him and get a feel for him, but I would have liked a bit more of the person behind the detective perhaps at times to have become more attached. This just helps make it more engaging because you identify with a character and start to understand their motivations, which overall gives the book a more three dimensional feel to it. None the less, the depth was good enough, as were most relationships between characters.
As I've said, keeping up with names of characters became a slight struggle towards the end, though through the book Montanari is generally pretty good at reiterating information when necessary and keeping things clear. He's able to generate an air of suspicion and tension, helped by a strong premise of murder mystery. The premise itself wasn't particularly unique, but the settings, characters, events etc were, and it made for interesting reading that was intelligently written.
There's a page of praise on the back cover for Montanari, including: 'A relentlessly suspenseful, soul-chilling thriller that hooks you instantly' - Tess Gerritsen, and 'A specialist in serial killer tales... a wonderfully evocative writer' - Publishers Weekly. I'd agree with these; Montanari is good at creating suspense and hooking the reader, partly through his engaging writing style that's easy to get lost in regardless really of the premise.
All in all I would recommend this as a crime thriller with a complex enough web of characters and mystery to keep you guessing and enjoyably reading.
106 chapters over 545 pages, plus 1 page epilogue (Hardback) Paper back RRP £6.99 but can be bought on Amazon for £5.17.
Overall... This makes for an interesting, intelligent & enjoyable crime thriller. [Also reviewed by me, Cazkins, on DooYoo]