Reilly Steel is a forensic investigator who has come to Ireland, home of her father, to help bring Ireland's lab into the twenty-first century. Haunted by a mysterious past that has driven her father into alcoholism, Reilly channels her issues into her work, and is highly regarded in her field. Her skills are put to the test by a series of murders in which victims are forced to enact societal taboos before being killed. Brother and sister forced into incent, a husband forced to suicide, a young man forced to eat human flesh....the murders are quite grisly and shocking. Reilly notes that Freudian clues are being left at each crime scene, impressing Chris Delaney, the detective on the case. However, it isn't long before the murderer drags Reilly into things on a personal level.
Although the serial killer in this novel likes to commit murders that shock society, shock is hardly an emotion likely to be experienced by anybody who reads the book. "Taboo" plays it extremely safe with characters straight out of central casting, non-graphic descriptions of crime scenes and standard forensic-investigator mumbo jumbo. Although too much descriptive prose in novels can irritate me, here I could barely even tell the events were happening in Dublin, Ireland. It could have been "CSI: Miami" for all I knew. Hill at least, for the most part, doesn't fall into that tiresome trap of a character saying "real life isn't like TV and crimes can't be solved in neat one-hour packages" blah, blah, blah. That's usually the justification an author will throw out because they secretly know their plot is dull and not going anywhere. The plot here moves along at a decent pace, so events are thankfully never boring.
Unfortunately, "Taboo" is just too routine and familiar to even really get out the starting gate. There is a decent twist regarding the true nature of the event from Reilly's past, which I didn't see coming. However, it renders everything that comes after it as completely ridiculous. I can't give anything away, obviously, but it took me right out of the book and I struggled to finish the last fifty pages. Idiotic revelation, ludicrous motive and silly climax. It dragged down even further what was already a below average crime novel.
On a side note, the killer and Reilly are supposed to be familiar with Freud. However, at one point Reilly is carrying on about the subconscious holding far more information than the conscious. Now, I may have only done very simple, brief work with Freud in my university days more than a decade ago, but I'm fairly certain that Freud never used the word subconscious. He always talked about the "conscious" and the "unconscious". I could be wrong (I usually am), but by that time I was already thoroughly unimpressed by the book and likely looking for little extra things I could nitpick about. What would Freud say about that?