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This review is from: Border Crossing (Paperback)
When child psychologist Tom Seymour pulls a would-be suicide from a river, he recognises the young man as Danny Miller, the child whom Tom's assessment had helped imprison for the brutal murder of an old woman thirteen years ago. Now out of prison and supposedly starting a new life, Danny has hunted Tom down in the hope that he might be able to help him understand the killing. With his own life troubled and his marriage collapsing, Tom succumbs to the temptation to travel into Danny's past.
The problem is that what he finds there is not particularly riveting, and certainly not unusual enough to account for an act which society regards with horror as completely beyond the boundaries of “normality”. Unlike, say, Peter Shaffer’s “Equus”, when Danny finally remembers the murder there is little depth, no sense of climax, no sense of a mystery unravelled, not even much horror. The novel sets up the idea of a journey into the mind of an outcast, the child who kills, but never lives up to what it promises.
The second problem is the characterisation. Danny Miller is a pale reworking of Billy Prior, Barker’s brilliant creation in “Regeneration”, complete with Prior’s unpleasant father, manipulative charm and “wintry smile”, but nowhere near as interesting (especially once you recognise him as Prior). Tom isn’t even a shadow of “Regeneration”’s Dr Rivers, and there is even less substance to the supporting cast, his wife, his colleagues, and the people whose lives Danny has passed through. Although there are hints that there will be trouble between Tom and Danny, since Danny seems to blame Tom for his imprisonment and is renowned for getting people who deal with him to “cross the invisible line”, the relationship barely develops, again being a lack-lustre echo of the intense but still professional relationship between Rivers and Prior.
Barker is capable of extraordinary writing, as evidenced in her superb “Regeneration” trilogy, a remarkable exploration of people who kill and what it does to their psyches. It’s a pity that she seems to have been rewriting it ever since.