Editorial Review: Feeding the Beast by Richard Greene
A fast-paced and brutal story made complete by depth of character and excellent twists.
Set in the 1950s, thirty years before the term ‘serial killer’ would exist, Richard J Greene’s book is gripping in both its plot complexity and its investigatory thrill.
Detective Dan Morgan has plenty of internal demons to battle, but this particular demon is real and grows ever more demanding for its own battle. The teenage girls the killer slaughters are oddly treated -- staged, with a missing finger. The treatment of the bodies after death shows an eerie tenderness, which is contrasted sharply by the immense violence during the murder itself. These things disturb our investigator, who has already suffered a lot in his life.
Still reeling from the tragic loss of his wife to cancer only two years before the first killing, the death of his daughter, and estrangement from his son, Dan Morgan doesn’t have a lot to fill his spare time. However, when this particular criminal starts to correspond with Morgan, revealing a little more of their personality with each word, suddenly his time is not his own and his life is no longer the sad but safe routine he had retreated in to.
The book deals with historical policework quite well, as policing in the 1950s was very different from the way things are done today. This is more than the lack of certain technologies but a deeper attitude shift towards the job, the victims, and the world view of the character we follow through the story.
With a story so violent and brutal there needs to be a softer aspect, and although Greene achieves this through tragedy and relatability – Detective Dan Morgan is ultimately a sympathetic character despite his flaws. This book teeters on the brink between a modern murder mystery and noir, Greene has done well to weave them together because, without due attention, the two could easily have clashed.
Readers of historical fiction with a taste for murder as well as noir fans will find something to like in Feeding The Beast. Those more dedicated to modern true crime may find the characters' alarm at the violence and nature of the murder somewhat over the top. The way Greene’s characters find the violence incomprehensible is almost naïve, and this genuinely adds to the atmosphere of ruined innocence that pervades the story.
Be prepared to want to read the whole book in one sitting, this page-turning story and cast of well-developed characters is simply spellbinding.