In Obsidian, from Harper Collins books, Thomas King returns readers to the ongoing story of Thumps DreadfulWater’s life. An ex- cop from California, Thumps had fled the coast for the open spaces of the prairies to escape the one crime that continues to haunt him. The death of his partner and her daughter at the hands of a serial killer.
Years have passed since then and he thought he had put the past behind him. Settled into life in the prairies as a commercial photographer and occasionally helping out the local Sherif. However, things seem to have hit a wall in both his personal and professional lives and he’s drifting.
When a reality show production company came to town (in the previous book in the series, A Matter of Malice) one of the producers dangled a file folder of new evidence she claimed to have uncovered about the serial killings. The work of a man nicknamed Obsidian by the press for his habit of leaving a piece of obsidian in each of his victims mouths.
While DreadfulWater wanted to ask her questions about the evidence, the producer’s research into other cold cases ended up with her murder making it hard to accomplish any follow up. However, the file made him realize the past really wasn’t resting as comfortably as he thought.
Obsidian opens with DreadfulWater having made the long journey back to the coast to see if he can access his old case notes and returning home not much further ahead save for the promise of help from an old colleague. While the month he’d been gone might not have seen like a long time relatively, it turns out quite bit has changed.
Most significant is somebody broke into the local coroner’s office and left a single piece of obsidian on an autopsy table. Just as annoying, if not as dangerous, another film company has shown up looking to make a movie about the serial killer and want DreadfulWater’s input on their proposed script.
Anybody who has read any of the previous books in this series will be delighted to see the familiar faces of DreadfulWater’s friends showing up throughout the pages of this book. These support characters are a wonderful mixture of exasperating and loving and help make the book’s tone lighter than you’d expect for a novel about a serial killer.
In fact the answer as to who is the killer isn’t that difficult for the reader to figure out. However, that’s not the point of this book. Instead we are given a finally of a person dealing with a particularly horrific trauma from his past.
It’s actually quite wonderful how King depicts DreadfulWater coming to grips with how the unresolved issues from his past have been impacting on every aspect of his life. From his cavalier attitude towards his health (he has adult onset diabetes) to his problematic relationship with his longterm girlfriend everything stems back to his feelings of having failed the people he loves.
King’s books are filled with mischief and sly humour, but his words always manages to reveal some hidden truth about life which makes you look at the world in a slightly different way then you did prior to reading his work. Even his mystery stories are more than what they look like on the surface and Obsidian is no exception.
If you’re a fan of Thomas King’s DreadfulWater books you’ll find Obsidian a satisfying conclusion, if that’s what it is, to this wonderful series. It may not be your typical murder mystery but its a wonderful book.