What actually drives a murderer to callously take the life of another? As with anything in life there has to be some sort of reason. In the vast majority of cases, it undoubtedly has to do with an emotional investment. The power of love and hate can be exceptionally strong! If you add the perception of being persecuted or mistreated to the equation, you will very frequently end up with an unquenchable thirst for revenge. Hate and revenge are dangerous things indeed. In the novella Velvet by Sacha Lanvin, this is just such the case. For readers who love murder mysteries which explore the intense depth of human emotions, this tale could be a great selection!
Essentially, the story opens in dramatic fashion as Commissaire Detective Laurent Lefevre battles with a notorious serial killer. The detective manages to come out on top in the clash, but not without some devastating losses. Feeling the need to “regroup” and take some time off, he joins his good friend Detective Jack Maupois in Antibes. However, tragedy seems to have a way of following Laurent Lefevre and he ends up immersed in a sickening crime wave. A number of women in the village are being murdered in a disturbing and almost ritualistic fashion. Do the two detectives have what it takes to put a stop to these barbaric events? Or will they find themselves as mere casualties in a sadistic murderer’s hateful killing spree?
This tale undoubtedly has all the elements which are required for a great murder mystery. There are murders, victims, clues, and a number of twists and turns which keep the reader intrigued. It is all very cleverly put together and produces a good level of reader engagement. Also, the theme of love and revenge is quite powerful and certainly provides for a very emotional “hook.” The author very capably puts it all together by gradually providing the necessary background of the characters as the reader works their way to the climax. However, an area for growth in this reader’s eye would have to do with the actual flow of the writing. There are some editing issues and the flow appears to be stilted at times. This story was translated from Italian into English so this is likely the cause. Also, I believe the story could easily have been turned into a much longer book. One where more is revealed about the killer, without actually revealing who they are. An exploration of their powerful emotions which would act as clues in the tale. In that way there would be more emotional investment by the reader. As an aside, the author should rework their blurb to the story as it does not match the work. It actually led to confusion as I read along.
In regards to character development, the author very capably manages this critical element. The two main characters, Laurent and Jack develop nicely throughout the story. The reader is easily able to emotionally connect with them, and their background reveals why they are indeed so passionate and determined. This creates both empathy and credibility. There are a number of other characters in the novella who play supporting roles, but as their role dictates, they are not described in as much depth. As I mentioned, the villain of the story could have easily taken the role of a significant character in this tale without revealing or spoiling the plot. For this not to happen in much depth may have been a missed opportunity.
Overall, this is a very solid and entertaining murder mystery. There are some quite violent scenes and as such it would be recommended to an adult audience.
3 out of 5 Mystifying Stars for this one! ***