The Final Days by Alex Chance William Heinemann, HK$160 The problem with many modern thrillers is that they are eminently forgettable. But there are exceptions: Dr Hannibal Lecter is as memorable a fictional character as they come. There are scenes from Thomas Harris' books and the films based on them that are difficult to forget. Heightened anticipation, therefore, accompanied the opening of The Final Days, by Alex Chance, dubbed - by its publisher - 'the most chilling thriller since The Silence of the Lambs'. The book, Chance's debut, is a ripping yarn and has much in common with Harris' stories, but is nowhere near as chilling or thrilling. This nasty tale focuses on Jon Peterson, a killer guided by 'demons' who is out to despatch newly qualified San Francisco-based psychiatric therapist Karen Wiley. If Peterson is Chance's Lecter, then Wiley is his Clarice. There is no doubting the extent of Peterson's evil. Here is someone who mutilates a little girl and leaves her for dead while abducting another. An evil nutter may not be quite as skin crawling as a brilliant and cultured man with an appetite for human flesh, but throw into The Final Days recipe Egan Blake, a retired FBI agent with an uncanny knack for sniffing out the bad guy, and Ella McCullers, a female police chief recently baptised in the Mormon state of Utah and you have characters who help drive a plot slowed down only by pages of drawn-out therapy sessions. Wiley has been receiving childish anonymous letters appealing for help and her daughter Jennifer is being stalked on the internet by someone signing in as 'Chilllerkid'. Peterson, meanwhile, is seeking more apparently random victims. And all this takes place against the back drop of a dark Mormon sect in the Utah town of Canaan, with its burned-out church and Cult of the Final Days. It takes a while before the evil sword-swinging cartoon character of Peterson is given a human face. It turns out he is as much sinned against as he is a sinner, every bit a victim and a perpetrator. One curious feature of this novel is that while Chance is British the book is based in the US, complete with American spellings and idioms. Whether he was aiming his book at the US market - with one eye on lucrative film rights - is unknown. While not in the same debut league as, say, Iain Banks' highly original The Wasp Factory, The Final Days is a solid if occasionally formulaic thriller that augurs well for work to come.