|Don't Look Back is the fourth of Scott Frost's
novels about Lieutenant Alex Delillo, a Homicide detective in Pasadena. The name is
deliberately gender-neutral, but the character herself is anything but neutral. She is an
efficient, well respected detective who has succeeded against all the odds in what is
still very much a male dominated world.
The cases she investigates in the novels have
taken a huge personal toll. They have all at some stage, involved family members or close
friends. This is now becoming a very predictable aspect of the books and is starting to be
more than a little annoying.
The current book opens with the discovery of a body which has been frozen solid in a
deliberately dramatic pose derived from a picture in a series painted by the nineteenth
century artist Francisco Goya. Other bodies are soon discovered and they too are replete
with Goya references. For want of a better name, Delillo and her colleagues start
referring to the killer as Goya.
The investigation soon makes it clear that Goya is killing people who were involved
with an old case of child abuse by a Catholic priest. The church closed ranks and
suppressed all details of the case, swearing all involved to secrecy and, where necessary,
paying off the participants or bringing pressure to bear from their superiors. One of the
policemen involved in that case was Delillo's boss (and close friend), a man called
Chavez. He submitted to the pressure from above and abandoned the investigation. Goya
abducts Chavez and threatens to kill him, putting extra pressure on Delillo of course
(remember what I said about personal involvement?).
The novel drops all kinds of hints (in a very Dan Brown sort of way) about the power of
the Catholic Church over its congregations. Secret squads of Vatican hit men, and similar
paranoid fantasies are invoked. It is clear that Scott Frost has a message; he doesn't
like the Catholic Church and he is particularly bitter about their record of child abuse.
And who can blame him for that? It's a perfectly reasonable position to take.
However the events of the book teeter on the edge of unbelieveability. I found myself
distinctly unwilling to suspend my disbelief in the manner in which the killer lived out
his paranoid fantasies and I utterly refuse to accept the deep seated conspiracy theory
that simultaneously suppresses evidence of child abuse and also successfully prevents
people speaking out against it because their faith refuses to let them make moral
judgments about the conduct of the Church. The Church may be pragmatic, but it isn't that
cynical and neither does it have such a uniformly complete controlling power over its
In short, I wasn't convinced. And that broke the spell and made the story an uneasy and
unenjoyable thing to read.