Cross Country Murder Song, By Philip Wilding

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The Independent Culture

A man takes a drive from New Jersey to California in a black Lexus. He is a man with a headful of secrets, including the secret of what happened to him as a boy, when he was kidnapped and locked in a box secured with chains and padlocks in a dismal basement. And the secret of what he himself has left in boxes secured with chains and padlocks, in the basement of his mansion, for the police to find.

On his journey, the driver indulges his sinister hobby of picking random numbers from telephone books and insinuating himself into the lives of the people who answer, often with tragic results. He meets many people: a cast of characters as strange as they are pathetic, and whom the driver has an impact upon, either knowingly or unknowingly, during his drive. There is an ex-astronaut who weighs himself down with bits of metal so that he doesn't fly off into space again; two hunters who upset a grizzly bear and pay – one with his life, the other with his arm; a young coke dealer with aspirations to be in the film business; a porn star who has lost his erection; two cannibals mourning the loss of their son in a car accident, who eat each other for comfort; a serial killer who counts his victims by the number of snow globes he has, having bought one to celebrate each kill.

Cross Country Murder Song is a non-linear novel; time-jumping from the past to the present to the future while the driver leaves a trail of mayhem behind him, before finding his release on the Pacific shore. Philip Wilding is another of those British writers who use the broader palette of America for their crime novels. But his palette is bible-black, and the country is skewed, from right to left, positive to negative. This is a worrying book, like a worm inside my brain. I like such books.