Top positive review
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A little 'too' normal
on 23 January 2007
At times, this book is hard going. I knew the story of Nilsen prior to reading, and so had an idea of what to expect in terms of the content of the murders. And to be honest, the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer make for even more unpleasant reading. That is not to diminish the evil of this man, just to say that it is not one long sqeam-fest.
I took issue with 2 points. Firstly, Nilsen is an egoistic man who delights in talking about himself. He enjoys the analysis, attention and 'fame', and events in recent years (demanding gay pornography, fight to publish his autobiography, letter to the Evening Standard detailing the first murder)have done nothing to change my mind on this point. Masters points out that Nilsen's work colleagues & few friends tired of his constant protesting & inability to know when to shut up. This very much shines through in the book. Essentially he came across as a tedius man, too locked in his own solice. Retrospectively he has manipulated the evidence to create his own 'version' of events, & this makes me disbelieve lots of what he has to say.
Secondly, Masters comes across, especially at the beginning of the book, as someone fixated on creating a 'setting'. Some of his narrative is tedius, the descriptions of a Scottish childhood especially kitch - I cannot imagine many Scots identifying with the romantic imagery he presents us. Neither did I go for the 'heartfelt' summaries of the lives of some of the victims - sometimes they are so embroiled in crime & drugs no amount of prose can presnt them as 'young boys with a potentially bright future ahead of them'. It is slow to start, & although the death of his grandfather must surely have had an impact, I got the feeling that visions of drowning at sea were no more than the fantasies of a pre-pubecent boy. Where he excels are his detailed and unbiased descriptions of the murders & trial. By this point, Masters had really gotten into his stride, & I couldn't put it down. Would have been even better to have more detail on the seedy underworld Nilsen had to enter in order to meet his victims.
In conclusion, a book which sways from deeply factual to highly emotive. As long as you can get through the shmaltz at the beginning, you will enjoy the meticulous analysis at the end.