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The Colour of Death by Michael Cordy

I’d never heard of this author or any of his books.  Given that they have titles like The Messiah Code, and The Venus Conspiracy, maybe I could be forgiven for suspecting that they were Da Vinci Code type thrillers and not looked further.

It turns out however, that several of his novels were written before the DVC, but were retitled and reissued after it – causing much irritation and confusion to his fanbase who’ve bought a new book only to find it’s an old one.  To them he’s apparently the British Michael Crichton – writing thrillers with a scientific bent.

However I read all this after I read his latest book which is a psychological crime thriller set in Portland, Oregon, and I chose it as my second title in the Transworld Book Group Challenge…

A young woman daringly rescues a group of girls imprisoned by sex-traffickers, and the police then uncover body after body in and around the house. Problem is no-one knows who the woman is, including herself, and she is suffering from terrifying hallucinations.

Nathan Fox is a psychiatrist whose parents and siblings were murdered in a hold-up when he was a child – he has baggage.  He works with the police and is called in when a local pimp is murdered and the body staged with a message ‘Serve the demon, save the angel’ stapled onto the forehead – another murder will follow.

Meanwhile Jane Doe, as she has been called, is causing difficulties in the hospital where her amnesia is being treated. She’s transferred, but refuses to stay in the room assigned. However the minute she sees Dr Fox, she’s happy to have him treat her.

Fox quickly works out that Jane is an extremely high-level functioning synaesthete – she feels and associates colours for everything, she can see auras.  Nathan’s is indigo, the other doctors’ auras weren’t the right colour.  Fox, himself has synaesthesia. But Jane’s abilities go far further than the norm – into the extra-sensory, for she can sense death echoes and the more violent the death, the stronger the hallucination caused by it. – and the shock of this has appeared to have caused her amnesia, and it’s not long before it becomes clear that she is involved in the murders.

However all too soon, her father turns up to collect her. Regan Delaney is leader of a new age cult called the Indigo people that live in isolation in the Oregon backwoods. Jane’s proper name is Sorcha.  The hospital has no choice but to release her into her father’s care. Fox senses that there’s something not right about Delaney and his cult, and why Sorcha ran away.  He’s also, predictably, fallen for his patient, and follows her north in search of the truth…

Synaesthesia is a fascinating subject.  Apparently over 60 types of this neurological condition have been documented according to Wikipedia, and they appear to be largely beneficial, augmenting experience in a good way – but I doubt that any of them involve death echoes.  Fox’s aunt and uncle who brought him up were conveniently academics who believed in another pseudo-science – ‘archaeosonics’ – the echoes of history that exist in the fabric of buildings.  This allowed him to him to embrace Jane’s condition, help her to come to terms with it, and then use it.

Her father’s cult was a real mixture: from hippy beginnings, it blended Celtic and Wiccan traditions, along with many other new-age beliefs such as astral projection, and of course no auras less than indigo allowed.  Delaney turns out to be a classic power-crazed and totally psychotic villain who will stop at nothing to achieve his Great Plan.

Despite the rational scientist in me rejecting all the mumbo-jumbo, I did rather enjoy this slightly different than normal psycho-thriller.  This was because Nathan and Jane/Sorcha were both likeable and strong characters, and you wanted them to succeed.  The pace was fast and violent, and the whole thing got rather silly towards the gory climax, but the ride was fun.  I’d safely say that if you enjoy Michael Crichton’s books, you would like this one too. Whereas I wouldn’t specially seek out another of Cordy’s novels to read, if I came upon one I probably would read it. (7/10)

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I am part of the Transworld book group, my copy was kindly supplied by the publisher – thank you.

To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
The Colour of Death by Michael Cordy, pub Bantam, Aug 2011. Trade paperback 384 pages.

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