White Is the Coldest Colour by John Nicholl

A review of the psychological crime thriller novel White Is the Coldest Colour by John Nicholl.

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White Is the Coldest Colour centres around a child psychiatrist, Dr David Galbraith. Unusually, Galbraith is not the hero of this tale, but the villain. He is a paedophile and sadistic murderer of children who has become obsessed with a young patient, Anthony Mailer. As readers, we know from the outset that Galbraith is guilty so the plot is mainly about whether or not the police can save Anthony.

I was initially drawn to this book as an interesting twist on the normal format of psychological thrillers. Although the subject matter is not something I would search out (there is a warning in the blurb) I was intrigued.

The characters are flimsy to say the least and completely forgettable. I found I was having to go back pages to find out who people were. The author seems to think that because Galbraith refers to children as “little bastards” every time they were mentioned that made him somehow menacing. I think he just sounded stupid. I had no empathy with the parents of Anthony as both were extremely annoying.

One-dimensional characters I could have forgiven (I know how hard it is to write decent ones) but what I could not forgive was the writing. Every little detail was described in detail—minute detail. I realise the importance of helping the reader to paint a picture of the settings and the characters, but this was too much.

He stood at the sink, stared at his reflected image in the illuminated magnifying mirror, and used a Victorian mother-of-pearl cut-throat razor to precisely shape the slightly greying sideburns that framed his well-proportioned face.

White Is the Coldest Colour by John Nicholl

This goes on for another two pages until, at last, the doctor is dressed. I thought maybe the razor had some bearing on the plot later on. It didn’t. Maybe the colour of his boxer shorts was a vital piece of evidence. It wasn’t. This level of description carries on throughout the book and makes it so difficult to read that I didn’t finish it. I did however read the end and found that the only thing that wasn’t described in great detail was a crucial character death. Even though this is glossed over, immediately afterwards the constant description starts up again.

I found the writing reminiscent of a teenage writer: the over-description (two or more adjectives to every noun), the repeating of risqué phrases (the little bastard), the mother’s insistence to refer to her son as “cariad” every sentence and the lack of description of the violence itself. A teenager would know all about getting dressed but would find it hard to describe someone being stabbed.

This is the first in a series of two books, but I won’t be purchasing the other book. I am sure some people will disagree with me. In fact, if you read the testimonials I am in the minority, but don’t bother reading this book; there are so many better ones out there.

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

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