I hate writing reviews for novels that didn’t get me fired up one way or the other.
Gushing reviews are easy. Angry reviews are fun.
But a blah review?
I mean, it’s well, blah, and it doesn’t give me the creative spark to live up to my potential as a sassy reviewer ’round these parts.
Sooooo yeaahhhhh….I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this offering by T.R. Ragan.
You’ve got all the makings of success in my eyes, typically: A female P.I., a personal mystery, an interesting sub-plot and a serial killer on the loose.
Those are some big plot lines that have half the magic built right into them, all the author needs to do is throw in a little glitter and fire. Somehow this novel manages to be just okay – it’s missing the glitter and fire.
I see a lot of reviews calling it a fast-paced thriller and um…
Private Eye Jessie Cole, lives in a rundown house with the niece she’s been raising as her own daughter since her sister went missing ten years ago. All kind of shit seem to happen to Jessie in one day – she’s arrested for almost killing the man she’s building a stalking case against, she’s hired to find a missing girl, a reporter wants to help her figure out what happened to her sister, and her niece adopts a stray dog she saw get him by a car.
I mean, if that was my life – and sometimes I feel like it is, just replace niece with stepkids and the missing sister with a cat that pees on the couch and voila, it’s me! – I would need a bong hit. But just a little one, because I still want to be able to drink a glass of wine.
In between all of that, there is a derange serial murderer, known as the Heartless Killer, terrorizing the city. He abducts people, tortures them and then leaves them out on display to be discovered.
I mean, synopsis wise, it’s sounds like it’s got a lot going for it.
But in reality, Jessie is unfortunately pretty dull for a series lead. Her 14-year-old niece, who is only a background player, had more of a recognizable personality, where Jessie came across as flat; humourless and without passion. She’s apparently a PI because of the disappearance of her sister, but also “wants to put the past behind her” and has no interest in working with someone who wants to help her crack her sister’s cold case that no one else cares about.
The stalker gets a disproportionate amount of attention considering the other big things going on in the novel, and it’s not even an emotionally enticing plot line. The stalker is never spoken to, the risk of him losing his life – and the legal ramifications on Jessie – is never presented as a palpable threat. Jessie speaks to a couple stalking victims, but their stories are mostly throwaways as they are never seen or heard from again for the rest of the book.
The serial killer spends most of his page-time supervising people in a cage. He can be a little sadistic and dark, but ultimately I found his evil-doer shtick to be pretty weak in it’s execution. The girls in the cages get most of the POV in the novel, but there’s only so much “she’s scared in a cage” that I can really take, without a ramping up in action, before it becomes redundant. Like, I get it! People are in cages! And they don’t like being in those cages. They are scared to die.
But, what then? Where is the threat? Being in a cage sucks, but this is a thriller – there’s got to be more to it. They have to get out one way or another…
It didn’t really feel like we were moving towards anything. Even when bodies are discovered, it happens out-of-scene and the information is relayed after the fact.
The killer should be a source of menace or fear for the reader, but mostly he seemed like a caricature of a villain and his crimes weren’t forefront enough to mean anything to me. At one point, he manages to completely botch an attack on a character in such spectacular fashion that I’m not sure how he’s been such a successful murderer up to that point.
Technically the writing is fine. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of plot filler; the author knew where she wanted the story to go and how she wanted to set it up for the sequel.
But at the same time, I felt like there was an “arm’s length” approach to the writing. In that I mean, the reader is never brought into the plot. We’re kept on the outside looking in. The novel heavily consists of Jessie and the reporter, Ben, talking to people about things that happened in the past, again out-of-scene, instead of being involved in things that are happening now.
This kind of crime fiction just isn’t for me. It’s a lot of telling, instead of showing (not exactly great writing technique, sorry.) I end up feeling like I’m not involved in the story, or being taken for a ride, but more so that I’m hearing a story from a third party: “I have this friend, who had a missing sister…”
And how each story thread was wrapped up felt like a letdown. Over 300 pages of buildup, only for things to be resolved OUT-OF-FUCKING-SCENE and relayed to the reader after the fact.
*And stop reading right here if you don’t want spoilers*
For Jessie to have a missing sister for ten years, and for the mystery to be wrapped up in the last 5% of the book by her literally stumbling, across her sister’s dead body not ten feet from where she disappeared, is both sorely ironic and a cheap outcome.
Also, are we just never going to address why Ben likes to strangle people so much?
*Okay, start reading again*
There’s something missing in this novel for me. It didn’t connect. It’s not a bad book, but any means. It’s just ok. It appears to have worked for many of my friends on Goodreads, but for me it was lacking in emotional connection and actual thrills.
book source: I received this novel from the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.