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FIVE
by Ursula Archer and Jamie Lee Searle, trans.
Minotaur Books, December 2014
336 pages
$25.99
ISBN: 1250037417


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ursula Archer, a successful Austrian author of books for young adults, creates tension and a grim atmosphere from the first page to the last in FIVE, her first novel for adults. This book is decidedly not for children.

The plot of FIVE hinges on the internationally popular game, or sport, of geocaching. Geocaching is a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants start with GPS locations obtained at Internet sites. Using GPS devices, players travel to map locations to hunt for caches, containers of mundane or clever items and, often, further clues. Eventually players reach a logbook where they record their finds. They may also upload photos and record their finds online.

In the prologue a man begs not to be dismembered and killed at the hands of a woman. Next, that woman's corpse with tattoos on the soles of her feet is found in a meadow. Salzburg Detective Inspector Beatrice Kaspary and her partner, Florin Wenninger, discover the tattoos are GPS coordinates such as those used by geocachers. The coordinates lead them to the site of a cache containing a taunting message and the severed hand of a man.

Thus begins Archer's expedition into the grisly reaches of revenge.

As the investigation proceeds, the killer sends more cryptic clues to Bea. For example:

“You're looking for a singer, a man by the name of Christoph, who has blue eyes and a birthmark on the back of his left hand… he was a member of a Salzburg choir… The two last numbers of his birth year are equal to A. Now square A, add 37 and add the resulting sum to your northern coordinates.”

Once police decipher these clues, the resulting coordinates lead police to victim after victim.

What connects the victims? Who is next and why? The victims are not randomly selected, Bea insists. Yet finding a connection between these victims is elusive. As the stakes rise, Bea and Florin work together intuitively and effectively. They may be the best partnership since Holmes and Watson. What a pleasure to encounter partners who are not in constant conflict!

Many surprises await readers near the end of this novel. Conscience, guilt, remorse and revenge all play featured roles in the revelations that conclude this dark, fascinating thriller.

§ Deb Shoss is a retired theatre producer/director, avid reader and former bookseller living in Sarasota FL.

Reviewed by Deb Shoss, November 2014

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