Random Targets by James Raven

Random Targets

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

In his Random Targets, James Raven addresses the archaic human need to understand. He sadistically taps into our fear of the unknown, so if you like to be tortured by suspense, this crime novel is just for you.

It all starts with a bang. James Raven picks up the readers with his first lines and drops them in the middle of a traffic jam. We enter this world through smoke and fire and we are greeted by chaos and a mass of confused and wounded people. It is mostly up to a team of detectives lead by Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Temple, to solve what evolves into a chain of sniper attacks on motorways near London. Their pool of suspects is wide enough to include both therrosists and rogue soldiers. At first, the only clues they have are those intentionally left behind by the killer. He or she taunts the police with a series of messages left near the crime scenes.

“There’s something deliciously impersonal about murdering total strangers at random” writes James Raven and his killer seems to be addicted to this taste. Usually, there is a reason behind the choice of victims, they are either known to the criminal, and he attacks them to solve some personal conflict, or they are not known, but they either remind him of someone who the killer is in conflict with, or they simply serve as pawns to accomplish his plan. But in this case, the sniper had a godlike power in determining who dies and who lives. He apparently chose people from the motorways at random, crossing the lines of gender and age. This unpredictability is what made these series of events so terrifying.

Raven bravely ventures into the mind of his sniper and generously shares a few insights with the readers, so we can at least try to understand how such a mind functions. This is how we will learn the secret behind his cool detachment, the victims were just “faceless people he didn’t know and couldn’t even see properly. The perfect victims.” So, his emotional distance is caused by a spatial one, but what will happen when he will be right in the middle of the chaotic mass of people he himself stirred up? In the end, we are presented with a detailed profile of the attacker, and we can see how both the environment and genetics played a part in the birth of a killer.

Also, the novel directs attention to war veterans and PTSD. It is hard for them to reintegrate themselves into the society and while there are programs helping them, they still need perfecting. People who suffer from PTSD are tortured by their memories of war, and in some rare cases they can end up actually hurting themselves or others.

Raven masterfully alternates the perspective between the killer and the detective. This invites the reader to be part a bit of both. Perhaps the best thing about “Random Targets” is that just when you think it’s over it’s not.

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