2-Star Reviews, Books & Reviews

‘Marked Off’, by Don Cameron: Book Review

Star Rating: ★★✰✰✰


The murder of housewife Barbara Ryan, a pencil jammed into her neck, starts Detective Danny O’Neill on the search for a serial killer on the streets of Dublin. With the help of newly trained criminal profiler Christine Connolly, and while battling with the death of his wife, he has to follow the twists and turns of the case and find the killer before he strikes again.

Serial killer? Tick
Brutal murders? Tick
Troubled cop? Tick
Criminal profiler? Tick

This book ticks all the boxes. Unfortunately those boxes have been ticked many times before, and by much better pens. Marked Off has everything that a police procedural/serial killer story needs, but in that, makes it all a little bit of a cliché. Danny’s drinking problem due to his wife’s death has been done. The criminal profiler coming in to help them catch a serial killer has been done. The serial killer with mother-issues, yep you guessed it, it’s been done.

Marked Off doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre, and the story itself isn’t strong enough to carry the book on its own. The serial killer, whose point of view we’re given in italics every few chapters, doesn’t have a lot of depth to him. His mother was a drunk who slept around and broke all his pencils when she was angry, so now he kills people who look like her by jamming a pencil in their neck. It’s not exactly ground-breaking.

And the policemen themselves aren’t much better. Danny’s wife died a few years before and he’s learning how to deal with that, but he has some issues with dating other people, issues the female pathologist is only too happy to help him overcome.

The final stand-off between Danny and the serial killer is less a satisfying climax, more sad ‘womp-womp’ noise. It’s not built up to well and it’s over before you can click your fingers.

I don’t normally like to give books such bad reviews, I like to try to find something good I can say, but I really struggled with this one. There were one or two really well written parts, but they were few and far between. And it’s descriptions of ‘sunny Dublin Bay’ were beautiful, if a little over enthusiastic – I can promise you that Dublin is nowhere near as sunny as this book will have you believe.

Marked Off unfortunately misses the mark when it comes to good crime fiction. I’m sorry to say it’s maybe not worth the read for fans of the genre, you’ll only be disappointed.

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