A Dish Best Served Cold

A dark, compelling journey into the mind of a tortured father.

Enter the world of Paul Kelly. Morbid. Filled with death and decay. The world of a dedicated firefighter, who braves all odds to save the lives of people he has never known...and never will. His is a world filled with the gruesome realities of suicide victims, prostitution and gang wars, and he faces it all with the restrained, unflinching calm of a man who has seen too much pain and destruction to be affected by it any longer. And then one day it changes, when the victim in question is too close to home for comfort...

Everything he has ever worked for crumbles when his sixteen-year-old daughter is found brutally beaten and strangled, and the man who has saved hundreds of unknown people fails to save his only child.

Kelly expects the police to arrest a monster, but the stereotypical image he had of a psychopathic killer vanishes when the prime suspect is found to be a teenage boy. Who draws the fine line between meting out justice and remaining sane? This is the main thought-provoking question that Spector concentrates on, because when the law fails to avenge his child, Kelly takes matters into his own hands, and goes about dispensing justice in a manner he deems fit. All his years spent saving lives and being on the right side of the law change in the light of one heinous crime, and a man who spent years in the service of humanity resorts to violence himself.

Spector makes a successful, if dark, journey into the mind of a tortured father, and depicts the protagonist’s dilemma remarkably well. The pace of the novel is rapid, and its mood tense and dark throughout. The undesirable work and gruesome world of the paramedics and firefighters has been very well portrayed as well. The author showcases a family’s private grief and the gradual unraveling of a hitherto sane man’s mind in a sensitive manner. He tells a tale of how ordinary people cope with extraordinary tragedy; the outcome is haunting.

What grabs one’s attention the most is the fact that a story like this could really happen to anyone - a model citizen could run amok if his life and everything he holds dear goes up in flames. Craig Spector has definitely achieved what he set out to do - the novel is a compelling one, with a very strong narrative. What more can one say, except that it isn’t for the faint hearted?

This article was first published on10 Jul 2001.