A book within a book, and a character study with real depth, The Nothing Man takes the current obsession with true crime and amateur detectives and wraps it around a gripping plot to give us one of the summer’s most ingenious mysteries.
The book opens as Jim, a security man, spots a newly-published book about one of Ireland’s most notorious killers. Or does it? Because the book then re-opens as a young women, Eve Black tries to come to terms with the horrific attack on her family of which she was the only survivor.
Eve writes her story down and that story becomes the book which startles Jim, because he is the infamous killer. Confused? Actually, you won’t be because Catherine Ryan Howard knits these stories together with ease and skill.
Eve Black was just a child when a man broke into her house, killing her family and leaving her as the only survivor. All of her life she has been ‘the girl who’, the only survivor, unable to move on in a country fascinated by the horrific events of her childhood. Eventually, in order try and deal with her loss, she decides to investigate the murders herself, a decision which leads her to write a True Crime book in which she herself is the lead character.
In the hands of a lesser writer this could come off as clunky, or even trivialize a horrific experience, but Ryan Howard has given Eve a fully rounded personality. Likewise, she has done enough research in this area to make the crimes, and their impact ring completely true.
Telling the reader who Jim is at the beginning of the book is by no means a spoiler as much of the story concerns his panic as he realises that his carefully constructed life might be about to unravel. There are also other twists that I won’t even hint at here but which greatly add to the novel’s conclusion.
Catherine Ryan Howard has a number of best-selling books under her belt, and a recently-announced TV option for a previous book. She is already a big name in the Irish crime world, but this may well be the novel that makes her a significant player in the international crime fiction world.