Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross

Luther: the calling

 a review by Daniel Haynes

Envisioned as the first of three tie-in books to complement the BBC’s Luther, The Calling is a direct prequel to the first episode of the dark and compelling psychological crime series.

The book introduces Detective John Luther and his struggle to find an increasingly infamous serial murderer, Henry Madsen. The prequel novel was released 10 months after the conclusion of the first season.

It is remarkable how vivid every scene, character and location is thanks to having watched the accompanying series. Neil Cross does a fantastic job of capturing each actor’s mannerisms, expressions and even body language using concise language.

Luther: The Calling is not for the faint of heart. The novel is bloody, gory and confronts head-on many uncomfortable issues including animal cruelty, child abuse and imprisonment, paedophilia and necrophilia. On top of this the crime scenes and violence is described in grotesquely gory detail, and can be hard to read at times. That being said, the tension built up over the course of the novel is palpable. Nail-biting moments littered throughout the first half eventually culminate in a second half chase at blistering speed. I couldn’t put the book down, it was compelling and detailed throughout.

Obvious are the painstaking efforts to ensure the absence of plot holes and continuity issues arising from the timeline of the book leading into the series. Cross manages to write about characters interacting around each other in the book while never directly meeting face-to-face, as these meetings do not occur until the series. I particularly loved a sub-plot Cross interweaves seamlessly into the story, one with a different set of characters which enriches the novel with diversity (and avoids becoming bogged down with one single continuous manhunt), while explaining the foundation for the conflict and corruption which drives the final two episodes of season one.

I wholeheartedly recommend the novel to Luther fans. The Calling is an absolute must-read for fans, as long as you can tolerate a level of violence, gore and issues at a level of significantly higher impact than the television series. The novel could be a good entry point for those who haven’t yet experienced the show too – but I believe the story is enriched upon having the series’ imagery embedded in the experience.