Cook weaves a tale with curves that only lead to more curves with literary references to such writers as Eric Ambler, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene – and this may be the only fault as the author too often reminds us at transitions in the plot that “in a novel….this would happen, but…” - as well as references to some obscure and some more famous serial killers and dark historical events.
Cook’s prose is wonderfully wrought; elegant, and the plot intricate as it explores not just the history of evil men and women and evil deeds both great and small, but the cost to the psyche when we travel too deeply into ‘the heart of darkness’ and as Marlow felt at the end of that story,” …(he) is drained by the tale he has just related, emptied not of energy but of belief. It is as if the darkness he describes has dialed down the light in his soul.”
It also is about how unspeakable crimes can be committed by ordinary people, especially when they wear a mask of deception, “It’s in all of Julian’s books. Deceit. The moment when the face of someone you thought you knew changes, and you suspect that there’s something terrible behind the mask.” Or the hard an an innocent act, a game can cause. "Like Orpheus, he had brought music into hell, and like him, he had died in a world that no longer wished to hear it."