Rattle by Fiona Cummins

A review of the psychological crime thriller novel Rattle by Fiona Cummins.

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Rattle, Fiona Cummins’ first novel, follows an investigation into a child abduction that bears similarities to a previous case which ended in the death of a child. In charge of the investigation is Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy, a young police officer. Haunted by the previous case – which remains unsolved – Fitzroy struggles with personal issues as well as the lack of any information on the new abduction.

Rattle is set in Blackheath, London, and according to the synopsis, ‘explores the seam of darkness that runs through us all; the struggle between light and shadow, redemption and revenge.’ The main antagonist – who is mostly referred to as ‘he’ or ‘the bone collector’ – runs a macabre museum of unusual skeletal malformations. He is searching for more.

Although a really good idea, Rattle lacked excitement, pace and likeable characters. The book’s chapters are arranged in days and sub-headed with a time, which feels a little overly-complex as a structure. As for characters, I think it is interesting that Ms Cummins’ chose only to say Etta’s eyes were different colours, rather than give a full picture.

I don’t think the author wanted the detective to come across as a whiny, self-absorbed martyr but she does. We find out that Etta had suffered the horror of a stillbirth and, I admit, that does help with understanding of what drives the character, but to keep mentioning it becomes tedious. I am not in any way belittling the pain and heartbreak of losing a child but there needs to be a balance in the book which there isn’t. She also whines a lot about her previous case.

The bite of frost in the air was as raw as her memories of the search for Grace Rodriguez.

Within a few lines, the fallout of the last investigations returns.

Even a year after Grace’s disappearance, Fitzroy’s frustration had not diminished.

This continues throughout the book.

The other characters in Rattle are quite unpleasant: from a shallow prima donna only interested in money and looking good and an unfaithful, up-himself doctor who has no consideration for his family, to a wife who has let her marriage break down with the illness of her son and her a whiny, self-centred, weak husband who should just stop complaining and do something.

The bone collector, the synopsis says, is a ‘serial killer to chill your bones. A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lector.’ He doesn’t and he isn’t. An interesting thing, though, of all the characters in Rattle the antagonist is the only one with a successful, happy marriage. Who would have thought?

The whole story moves really slowly as there’s too much non-essential fluff; I don’t need to know all the smallest details of the character’s problems. I don’t need to keep being told what Stone-man Syndrome is: I can remember things. It felt to me like someone had been watching too many police dramas.

All-in-all, I did finish it. Would I recommend it? If you’ve got a couple of hours spare, maybe.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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