Naked Cruelty by Colleen McCullough

Naked Cruelty is the third in a series starring Captain Carmine Delmonico, detective in the Holloman police in the 1960s. The first book was the excellent On, Off, a truly creepy thriller, followed by Too Many Murders that had me throwing my hands up in the air in despair at the conclusion. (It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I felt really sorry for Carmine).

Naked Cruelty doesn’t continue with the murder theme from Too Many Murders. It starts with a series of rapes (described rather graphically) on women in Carew, a suburb of Holloman. One of the ways to combat the rapist is a walking club, the Gentlemen Walkers, walking the streets at night to protect the women from the ‘Dodo’ rapist. Are they hiding a rapist in their midst?

Add in a giant glass teddy bear, a pair of strangely acting twins, a kidnapping and guns found at the local school and you think Carmine must be in over his head. On top of that, he has a lot of bureaucracy to deal with – Helen, the wayward new recruit and others that are trying desperately to swim against the tide.

As always, Colleen McCullough writes a gripping crime story with many threads. Some seemed to be better ‘fleshed out’ than others (eg. the guns in the school doesn’t rate much of a mention and is tied up very quickly) but it’s easy to follow. Once again, the conclusion had me throwing my hands in the air – such an ending! I won’t give it away for you, but poor Carmine. He never seems to get a break.

This is very different from The Thorn Birds and also The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet (thank goodness). This series does not need to be read in order, but I’d suggest On, Off as the first book to read, as it’s the strongest. 

Read it if: you like fast paced crime set in the past.

7.5 out of 10.

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