The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard – review

Published by Covus

Publication date – 6 August 2020

Source – review copy

I was the girl who survived the Nothing Man.
Now I am the woman who is going to catch him…

You’ve just read the opening pages of The Nothing Man, the true crime memoir Eve Black has written about her obsessive search for the man who killed her family nearly two decades ago.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle is reading it too, and with each turn of the page his rage grows. Because Jim was – is – the Nothing Man.

The more Jim reads, the more he realises how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first…

Eve Smith was the sole survivor when her family were killed by The Nothing Man, dubbed by the press because the police could find no trace of the murderer. Twenty years later she had written a book about the killings and her quest to discover the perpetrator. For most, it will be a macabre look into the past, a chance to twitch curtains and look in on tragedy. For Jim Doyle it could mean his world crashing down. For Jim is The Nothing Man. And he’ll do anything for his identity to remain secret.

I love a book within a book. There’s something magical about it and it worked brilliantly in The Nothing Man. We progress through the book as Jim does, so the reader is never sure if they are reading Eve’s novel or Jim’s interpretation of it.

Jim fills in the gaps that Eve leaves behind with his own reminisces about the crimes. He gloats, he preens, he again marvels at how stupid the police were at not being able to track him down. He relives the crimes that led him to the murders of Eve’s family, the series of rapes, assaults and murders that remind him of how powerful he felt. The book acts as a catalyst, giving re-birth to the monster that Jim had suppressed.

Whilst this is not a whodunit, for the reader knows almost immediately that Jim is the murderer, it is more of a tale of how a monster is able to pass us by, undetected. It is a story of how Jim slowly unravels, as his arrogance, both inherent and increased from years of having literally got away with murder, becomes his undoing. He is a cruel man, his anger barely hidden below the surface, his contempt for others he deems less worthy than him suddenly spilling out, the more pages he reads.

The story alternates between Jim and Eve, with Eve’s story told mainly through the pages of her book. As Jim reads, he becomes more undone, his carefully constructed world about to crash down around him. As Eve writes, hers becomes more stable, each page one step closer to the truth and to some kind of peace.

The reader also hears about Eve’s tenacity. Her life after the murders was hard, moving with her grandmother to a coastal village. Changing her name so that people wouldn’t realise who she was. The survivor. As she writes the book she discovers a strength she didn’t know she possessed, a tenacity to pit her wits against the bogeyman, to bring her nightmares into the light.

From the moment Eve begins to pen The Nothing Man she sets in motion a battle of brains versus brawn. Jim, who has always been one step ahead, now finds himself on the back foot, eager to catch up with where Eve has progressed, to see if she is the threat he perceives her to be.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading The Nothing Man, which at times does not hold back any punches with the gruesome details of Jim’s past crimes. As the pages flew by I was eager to find out if justice would finally be served.

A brilliantly played out mystery that had me eagerly turning the pages.


About the Author

Catherine Ryan Howard‘s debut novel Distress Signals was published by Corvus in 2016 while she was studying English literature at Trinity College Dublin. It went on to be shortlisted for both the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. Her second novel, The Liar’s Girl, was published to critical acclaim in 2018 and was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel 2019. That same year, Rewind was shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and was an Irish Times bestseller. She is currently based in Dublin.

One Comment Add yours

  1. I have 40 pages left and I am loving this one. It’s so well done!


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