Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh had the best possible premise: a serial killer on the jury for the murders he had committed. Told partly from his perspective and mostly from the lawyer, Eddie Flynn, Cavanagh has crafted a deeply twisted and dark narrative with some insanely creative characters, all of whom I loved reading. I even wanted Kane to succeed at times, which proves that I am the perfect reader for this novel. This is one of the best books I have read this year! Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh is out on 14 June, 2018 from Orion.
A celebrity is standing trial for killing his wife and best friend in cold blood. The real killer, Kane, has planted himself on the jury through a series of murders and meticulous planning. However, the serial killer could not have planned for defense attorney, Eddie Flynn to be put on the case last minute. As the court case unfolds and the reader is shown more of Kane’s past and thought process, it appears more and more likely that the defense team will figure it all out. But will they do it soon enough?
Why I liked Thirteen…
Steve Cavanagh’s Thirteen looks at many different aspects of the human psyche. The way he considers identity, using Kane to represent identity theft and how much it can actually cost you and the people around you is enticing, and I enjoyed this underlying commentary running through the narrative. Cavanagh also considers innocence and guilt, and how guilt can play on the mind of the innocent party because they understand that them not being in the right place at the right time may have led to something terrible. As well as this, I like how Cavanagh takes the idea that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ and dumps it right on its head. Impersonating someone else goes from being something cute and admirable to something more severe and deadly.
Above all, though, Cavanagh knows how to write. This is such a well-crafted novel that, although he uses typical crime fiction tropes, they are still realistic, even though they may be unpredictable. Everything that happened in Thirteen genuinely could have happened in real life; Cavanagh does not stray from the idea of fame-hungry lawyers, corrupt cops and rogue jurors by any means. He keeps this story alive with his use of characters that the reader wants to despise but truly cannot. Take Eddie, for example – yes he is the hero – but he is not massively likeable; a drunk who’s wife has left him who cannot help but put himself and his family in danger repeatedly. And yet, I loved him! I found Eddie to be non-self-serving, humble and yet he takes complete ownership for his shortcomings. I particularly respected the way that he never blamed anybody else for what the court case cost him.
As I’ve already mentioned, I really liked Kane. He may have been a psychopath, but he was a genius which made him somewhat likeable. The fact that you see how hard he has worked for something, even if it was to prove a bit of a stupid point, is quite admirable. I revelled in his use of deception and the effort he put into his mimicry as a juror, as this cannot be simple. As well as him, I found that characters including Pryor and Anderson were both great to read, if not brilliant people all around. Pryor makes a brilliant prosecutor and in a way, I would like to read a book where the fame-hungry lawyer wins and gains the reputation he’s always wanted, then uses it for evil-doings. But I digress. Anderson and the other corrupt cops were fun characters to read, as always and I felt that Cavanagh managed to give each ‘bad guy’ their own personality.
Overall, I thought that this was a genius piece of courtroom, thriller fiction. Cavanagh has written characters and a plot line that really reflect the culture of American crime and punishment in today’s society. I thought that he did an excellent job weaving in the psychological aspects and that he had obviously researched the novel extensively before writing it. I would recommend this to all fans of crime and courtroom dramas, yet who can also handle a bit of blood, gore and a lot of graphically described murder scenes. Congratulations, Cavanagh and those at Orion for a seamless book that I just could not, and still cannot stop thinking about! Thank you to Lauren Woosey for my advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.