Review: He Drinks Poison by Laine Cunningham

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher  in return for an honest review– thank you! That fact didn’t influence me in any way.

Synopsis:

  In ignorance he drinks poison,

in arrogance he refuses the antidote.

The Ramayana

When Priya Conlin-Kumar, an FBI agent also known as ‘the Destroyer’, is sent to a small town to help investigate a number of murders she hardly knows it will be one of the most challenging cases in her career. Soon enough she finds out there are two perpetrators. Are they cooperating? Is it a case of  copycat murders? Is there no link at all between them? One thing is sure: their victims, young and not so young women, are so numerous that it is obvious Priya deals with two cunning and very successful serial killers. After a while she discovers something even more disturbing: it seems one of the perpetrators is falling in love with her, using her Indian/Hindu heritage to scene his murders. What will take to catch them all? Will it influence real romance between Priya and one of the cops?

What I liked:

The plot formula. I found it very refreshing. It is not as much a whodunit as ‘how-will-they-catch-him/them–if-they–catch-him/them-at-all’. We get three different POV’s: that of Priya, and of the two murderers. You know from the very beginning who kills whom and also, roughly, why. Still the story pulls you in and keeps engaged till the very end.

The protagonist. Priya was not only a woman of colour (her father was from India, her mom was an American) but she also knew Hindu religion and customs pretty well, never hesitated to use them during the investigation and wasn’t ashamed  of her heritage.

The villain of the piece. It is indeed one of few crime stories which feature a very shadowed, three-dimensional baddie who is almost as interesting to read about as his opponent. He reminded me a bit of Hannibal Lecter from the ‘Hannibal’ tv series – a scary, intelligent, completely ruthless but also compelling individual who always plans two steps ahead of everybody. Good job!

The secondary characters. The author always managed to flesh them out even though they were given just a few scenes. Overall the gift of characterization is a strong point of Ms Cunningham. Giving Priya a rival within the police force was also a  very good move I appreciated.

The Hindu culture and mythology. It was a very original setting, still not overused like e.g. the Greek or Roman mythology. It was my pleasure to refresh my half-forgotten knowledge about Indra, Kali, Shiva, Hanuman and Ravana but don’t worry – even if you haven’t heard about those deities you will still enjoy the story, getting to know them pretty well.

What I didn’t like:

I have to admit the final showdown between Priya and Lawrence felt a bit too stretched out. Apart from that I hoped and expected Priya to manipulate her opponent as she had been manipulated by him – no such luck. She seemed to follow the scenario imposed by the murderer to the very end and I wondered why. Was it, in her opinion, the best possible course of action? I suppose somebody with her brains and cunning could have done better.

Final verdict:

An intelligent, original, crime story with an interesting female protagonist and Hindu flavor. If you enjoyed watching any season of ‘Hannibal’ you will like it for sure. Personally I am so happy I was given an opportunity to read and review this one!

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10 Responses to Review: He Drinks Poison by Laine Cunningham

  1. Pingback: Review: He Drinks Poison by Laine Cunningham | Writer's Resource Blog

  2. Reblogged this on Dancing the Blade and commented:
    Latest review for He Drinks Poison. The reviewer makes some great points!

  3. Thank you so much for this honest and detailed review! You’ve made some great points throughout. I’m really fascinated by the comments about the love thread between one of the killers and Priya. You’re not the only one to point that out as a matter of interest. It was just something that happened between the characters, not something that was planned. Glad to know these characters really sparked something in you and other readers!

    • Thank you for sending the book my way! The connection between Priya and that serial murderer very often sent chills down my spine. It was psychologically accurate and very creepy at the same time. A fascinating dance macabre, that’s how I would call it.

  4. blodeuedd says:

    I think I’d rather watch this than read it

  5. heidenkind says:

    I do enjoy Hannibal, but I agree with blodeuedd—I tend to prefer watching stories like this over reading them.

  6. Carole Rae says:

    Actually sounds good even tho I am really picky on my mysteries and crime genres. lol. Great review of course

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