There’s a murderer loose in the city. Catchman (1998) centers on a group of homeless teenagers and the news circling around a serial killer nearby, who has been dubbed the ‘Catchman’. As victims surface one by one, the tension grows and with it, tempers run high among the teens.
One of the greater strengths of Catchman was the intriguing set-up. I actively wanted to know what was going to happen from the beginning of the story and throughout the narrative. The tension of the background, Catchman included, helped lend gravity to the struggles of the young protagonists.
The main creep factor (the Catchman himself) wasn’t immediately threatening enough for me to get into the heads of the characters. To me, the elusive villain was too elusive — to the detriment of the story. The murders in the city always feel far off and as such don’t serve as a convincing motivation for the main characters to do much of anything. The Catchman is just another hazard in a world that already allows them little to no safety or comfort. Overall the horror element fell flat for me. It didn’t elicit an emotional response above or beyond the day-to-day strife of the homeless youth.
Another of the biggest strengths of Catchman were the central characters. Each person in the group of homeless teenagers is a dynamic entity, and their individuality coupled with their daily struggle to find meaningful life and some sort of comfort is engaging. The well-defined and interesting characters of Catchman redeem it for some of the other faults. Characters like the ones in Catchman go a long way to carry a story like this.
As one of Chris Wooding’s earlier novels, I wasn’t extremely surprised to find it less defined than some of his later work. That being said, Catchman hints at some of his later successes with the engaging characters and the complex dynamics to the set-up of the plot. Unfortunately Catchman fell flat for me in many other aspects. Overall, I enjoyed the novel as an illustration of where Wooding’s writing has come from.