Ed Chatterton’s crime thriller, Remission, opens with Frank Keane, a Liverpool cop, in possession of £25 million and incurable cancer. The money comes from a dodgy character from his mission in America to keep schtum about his Stateside business. Suspended from the force, he spends a bit of quiet time in the countryside, but, this being a crime thriller, such peace doesn’t last long. Keane will check his shoulder to see if his American “friend” or Liverpool drug gangs are behind him with a gun aimed at the back of his head.
Meanwhile, the body of a woman is found in a van stolen from a Berlin Clinic but which has crashed in Liverpool, leaving both abductors dead and leaving a bunch of weird questions behind.
So begins a trail of blood and terror which Liverpool’s MIT try to clear up and from which Frank Keane tries to escape and ultimately solve. It’s a thrill-ride and a grim exploration of far right extremism. There’s one scene in a zoo where a German Nazi operative is threatened by another in such a way you lose sight of his extremism and experience a real primal fear for him that I almost fell off my chair. I can’t remember a time I read something which made me so clammy and fearful, and that includes Ellroy.
Chatterton matches it later at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a scene of horror as grim as anything I’ve ever read. The buildup is pacy, relentless, cold (and funny). Keane’s cancer gives the book a personal urgency which parallels the larger picture and gives the novel some warmth from the cold motives which populate the rest of the story.
There are a lot of characters in the book. Frank Keane is the protagonist, but he’s not the sole viewpoint. We get in the head of his colleague and former lover, Harris, as well as her protege, the far right characters, and even the security team in Berlin. I’m fine with all that, though I’m not sure how I needed to get involved in the security team’s mindset. It seemed a bit much. There is also some head switching within scenes which can lead to a bit of confusion.
If you leave the book for a while you might get lost on returning with all the stories involved, but I doubt you’ll leave this lying on the bedside table for long. It compels you to turn pages and its darkness drags you into its abyss.
A great read.