The Chemist by Janson Mancheski

A review of the psychological crime thriller The Chemist by Janson Mancheski.

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The Chemist is a suspense novel, written by Janson Mancheski, in which three girls go missing without a trace—until one of their bodies turns up, headless. With nothing to go on, the investigation is put on the back burner until another girl goes missing under similar circumstances, at which point Detective Cale Van Waring re-opens the original case. The story then follows Van Waring and his colleagues as they attempt to catch the killer.

This book is really well-written and very easy to read. Mancheski has a style of writing which keeps the reader interested, including through the less interesting parts that all books have. At times the story moves quite slowly, however this seems to evoke a more realistic impression of an actual police investigation. The author manages to capture the frustration of the detectives and shows that dogged determination is a trait all police officers need. When the officers do get a break—despite initially not having much to go on—it doesn’t feel contrived at all, but more of a logical leap.

The characters are well-written and the reader can empathise with all of them. Working alongside Van Waring is Anton Staszak and James ‘Slink’ Dooley. Mancheski has given the three detectives different personalities and traits—something not all authors remember to do in this genre—so the reader can explore a variety of relationships with the characters. Each of the main characters adds something to the overall story, and all three are entirely credible. As the protagonist, Van Waring is, typically, hiding a secret—something bad from his past—but it doesn’t dominate the storyline or the character development, and is only really mentioned a few times. He lives with his girlfriend, Maggie Jeffers, and their cat, Hank. Although their relationship is discussed in the book, it doesn’t dominate. In fact, it helps build a complete picture of Van Waring. The author also introduces a believable villain. None of the killer’s actions seem contrived and Mancheski manages to describe well a sense of desperation when things spiral out of his control.

This book is about kidnapping and murder, but Mancheski shies away from shocking the reader with gratuitous violence and sex scenes. Instead, the moments where sensational brutality could be used are left to the reader’s imagination. With clever use of language, the cruelty and sadism are implied.

I really loved this book. It was easy to read and incidents often come out of leftfield yet are still within believable parameters of the story. I would happily recommend this book to other readers.

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

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