The Gemini Factor, by Paul Kane, is an unusual take on the traditional serial killer saga. As can be anticipated from the man that gleefully retells myths & folklore, Kane skillfully reinterprets genre conventions in his latest thriller.
By pairing science & the supernatural (one of many, many twins - literal and metaphorical in The Gemini Factor), he's created something quite new and nasty.
In the fictional city of Norchester, a serial killer is stalking twins. And, as serial killers are wont to do, killing them and chopping off bits. The killer is amusingly named "Twinkle" by the city's local media, but despite the condescending name, he (or she) is a nasty piece of work.
[Editor's note: In a maneuver clearly meant to win over my carnivorous heart, the killer uses a giant BBQ fork to spear victims.]
While Twinkle skewers and slices the city's population, an unlikely pair of heroes try to solve the case. Detective Sergeant Deborah Harrison (nickname: "Blondie") is a talented sleuth, but fears that the Twinkle case is beyond her. She finds an unlikely ally in Jack Foley, a scruffy historian (and also a twin). Ever since Twinkle killed his brother, Jack is inextricably and inexplicably linked to the killer. Every time Twinkle takes a life, Jack can somehow see it. Given the particularly messy nature of the murders, this has taken its toll on Jack's sanity.
The author puts in a lot of time making the little details of Jack and Debbie's lives come to life. We learn where Debbie hides Christmas presents from her daughter and how Jack is too shy to ask out the pretty clerk at his hotel. What seems like trivia actually isn't - not only does the reader develop a slow-burning rapport with the Debbie and Jack, but there's very little detail that isn't a valuable component of one of the book's many intricate twists and turns.
While Jack and Debbie are both empathetic, the book's real star is the fictional city of Norchester. I suspect that creating a fictional, modern city from the ground up (and in some instances, the ground down) is a much harder task than creating a completely fantastical universe. No one is going to bitch if the Orcish citadel of Shog'ma'pooth has unrealistic property values. Norchester has seedy back alleys, an antiquated police station, an isolated posh neighborhood and hotels with fading Victorian grandeur. In short, it has everything a city needs to be properly thrilling. Paul Kane has created a brilliantly detailed and utterly believable setting - hopefully one that is revisited in later books.
The Gemini Factor is a tightly-plotted, well-planned thriller. A disturbing villain stalks a compelling, British noir setting, while heroes combine modern forensics and ageless intuition to stop him. Not just something for everyone, but something very good...
The Gemini Factor is out now from the noted small press, Screaming Dreams. You can purchase your copy online or from your local, independent bookseller.