by Fiona Hardy
I could tell you that Iain Ryan’s The Spiral is an immersive, captivating crime book, but that wouldn’t be enough to explain it. I could say it’s a twisted, psychological fever dream, but that’s not quite it. I could tell you it’s an Australian campus thriller, and that wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s not quite right either. What I know for sure is this: you won’t have the same experience of this book that I did.
Dr Erma Bridges works at the University of Queensland, studying the works of Archibald Moder, the author of the choose-your-own-adventure Zone Mover series. Jenny, her assistant, has vanished, along with the dictaphone that held her interview with the reclusive, ageing Moder. Erma sets out to find the missing Jenny, but it turns out Jenny is hunting Erma too – and she has a bloodthirsty plan in store. As Erma recovers from what happened, she attempts to find out what sent Jenny into a spiral of violence, and to track down the elusive dictaphone. All the while, at night, she dreams of one of Moder’s creations, Sero the Barbarian, who wreaks havoc across the lands trying to reclaim their lost memories, following a path only the reader can set for them.
The Spiral keeps you constantly wrongfooted: it’s a book where truth and memories cannot be trusted; where violence and darkness are not always the most terrifying paths you could take. In here, the only person you can really trust is yourself, the reader, turning those pages, following Erma to her absolution, trying to find the best path – if only you could find it for her.
Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also the bestselling author of the acclaimed How To Make a Movie in 12 Days, and How To Write the Soundtrack To Your Life.
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