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Outside the White Lines

Chris Simms


UK Hardcover First

ISBN: 0091795389

Publication Date: March 2003

320 Pages; £15.99

Date Reviewed: August 31, 2003

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2003



Mystery, Horror

I fell for this book based on a review claiming that 'Outside the White Lines' does for driving alone at night what 'Psycho' did for taking showers. Who writes this stuff? Looking for an escapist page-turning killer-thriller book, I ended up with a laugher and I'm now brandishing a big "S" for sucker.

'Outside the White Lines' is a three-part narrative, with three characters alternating the tale chapter by chapter. While the characters and their motivations are simple, each chapter is helpfully labeled, so the reader won't get confused. They're presented here in their entirety.

"The Hunter" is Andy Seer, rookie traffic cop paired with Ray Walker, a thirty-year traffic veteran. Andy is gung-ho about patrolling the motorways, a career that allows him to indulge his passion for cars and "Joy Rider" computer games. Walker is not gung-ho about anything except catching extra sleep and riding out his remaining days until retirement doing as little as possible. Walker derides Andy, getting him put on probation. Andy seeks justice.

"The Searcher" is a fearful recluse who dresses in full camouflage gear, with face makeup, to slither about on his belly on motorway median strips. He does this at night, foraging for various road droppings and litter. He takes these treasures home, carefully categorizes them and distributes them in their appropriate rooms. One room, for example, is for "items of a biodegradable nature not thrown from vehicles". "The Searcher" is nameless, but not motivationless. It seems as a child his older brother threw his favorite toy from a moving car, and he watched helplessly as it bounced along the median. As the child cried in the backseat, his father turned around to whack him, sending the car careening off the road, killing the whole family, except him. The quest for a lost toy paired with an intense sense of loss is meant to explain his otherwise aberrant behavior.

"The Killer", is Dave Budgen, father, husband, body builder and personification of road rage. He frequently flexes his muscles and unknowingly grinds his teeth. Dave drives a delivery van for a shady employer and revels in aggressively edging out anyone else daring to share his roadway. He pictures himself a righteous predator seeking to rid the world of the weak and stupid who clog roadways, let their cars breakdown and cause traffic jams. He avenges vehicular stupidity by finding distressed autos by the side of the motorway, pretending to be a rescuer, and then beating the driver to death with a monkey wrench. He does this repeatedly, earning the moniker Motorway Murderer.

With characters like these, who needs a plot? But Simms helpfully provides one, just in case. Part with credibility, abandon rationality and embrace coincidence... the plot goes like this. The Killer beats a weak (broken down) driver to death, only to discover his small daughter in the back seat. Unsure what else to do, he beats the child to death too, and tosses her body in the median strip to be found by The Searcher. Add in a dash of Hunter, two parts Searcher, then stir with car radio antenna till boiling. Sprinkle liberally with Killer, add bits of Hunter and Searcher to taste, serve hot.

It wasn't to my taste, but your mileage may vary.