Can you trust the memories of anyone, let alone an apparent serial killer, if you are able to enter their mind and see their memories for yourself? The inventor of such a machine is drawn into an investigation to help find a determined and unusual serial killer
Witness X is, interestingly, set in the very near future, a device which allows the author to use familiar scenarios and contexts but free to allow for new technological developments to have modified and changed the way some things work. This is very successful because it removes strong overtones of science fiction while allowing for intriguing developments to drive the plot.
Kyra Sullivan had been working with the police 14 years earlier when they caught a serial killer with an unusual modus operandi. For Kyra the case had become personal because one of the murder victims was her sister, who left her daughter to the care of Kyra and her mother. The serial killer has now escaped from prison, causing Kyra’s doubts concerning his guilt to resurface.
At the time of the novel Kyra is working with a company to design a way for one person to see the memories of another person, using highly developed technology. Kyra has a dispute with her partners when they want to sell the product for military use since she feels it is best suited to solving crime. As the reader of the memories, Kyra becomes increasingly concerned about side-effects as she is visited by phantoms from the memories of those she has viewed.
More murders start in the style of the original serial killer, even after he is recaptured. Because the pattern is the same there is a short deadline for the police to find the latest victims. Kyra becomes involved with the police in trying to solve the crime and persuades them to allow her to visit the memories of the person originally imprisoned for the murders. Unfortunately, for Kyra, each time she engages in memory reading she becomes increasingly haunted by those memories, seeing the victims whether she’s asleep or awake.
The novel skilfully explores the impact of the reappearance of the killer, the need to resolve feelings of guilt and loyalty, and the increasingly traumatic impact of the side-effects of the memory transfer on Kyra and those with whom she is associated.
The book is extremely well-written, well-paced, engaging and intriguing. Kyra is the main protagonist but there are other characters, all of then rounded and interesting, whose actions and personalities contribute fully into the plot development. In parallel with the narrative, there are interesting snapshots of what life may be like in 15 years’ time – nothing major and the seeds of them are already visible, but they add a lot to the mood of this excellent book.
Reviewed 13 June 2020 by John Barnbrook
John is a former secondary headteacher and interim school leader. He trained as a zoologist, enjoys creativity and has spent his life reading voraciously.