The Teacher | Katerina Diamond | 2016 (10 March) | Avon | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
When Jeffrey Stone, a head teacher at an exclusive school near Exeter in Devon, finds a certain book on his desk he knows that his time is up. He doesn’t fight it. He has no choice but to accept his fate. Shortly afterwards his corpse is found hanging in the school assembly room. It receives no attention from the police. It’s accepted as a tragic suicide. But other bodies are to follow, some seemingly killed by their own hand and others that clearly weren’t – murdered in the most gruesome ways. It’s up to DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles to try and piece the clues together, slowly realising the appalling truth that Exeter is in the grip of a serial killer.
Mixed in with the tale of the hunt, and the accounts of the murders, we are also given the story of Abbey Lucas, a young taxidermist who works in the local museum, who has been given the task of restoring its animal display. She lives quietly, almost as if she is hiding something.
The Teacher presents a series of damaged souls. Even Detectives Grey and Miles have a past from which they might want to escape. Disgraced and with something to prove, they need to solve this case. The novel moves between multiple perspectives and it also jumps through time, backwards and forwards, sometimes without warning. Clues are dropped, twisted and forgotten. You need to be alert to follow the trail and it leads the reader into very surprising, albeit dark and distressing, territory.
The novel comes with a warning that it’s not for the fainthearted. It’s true that there is a fair amount of gore. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind it too much even though I’m such a squeamish reader. What I found more disturbing was the depraved world into which we descend. While I had a fair idea of the outcome from relatively early on, I was surprised by the way that it was revealed. This is well done.
I did have a couple of issues with the novel. The gruesome murders felt to me to be placed there to shock rather than for what they revealed about the killer’s character. I also thought that the narrative moved around too much, particularly with its jumps into the past.
The Teacher is a crime novel that wants to make an impact and to some extent it succeeds, although I think the novel is more sad than it is shocking. The character of Abbey is especially memorable, as are the creepy scenes set within the museum out of hours. With no doubt at all, The Teacher is a fast pageturner and it grips from the first chapter. There were times when I didn’t like where it took me but nothing could stop me turning those pages.