Thomas & Mercer | 2017
Filed Under: All tell, no show
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, blah 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: 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 since her sister went missing ten years ago. All kind of shit seems to happen to Jessie in just 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, and a reporter wants to help her figure out what happened to her sister, then her niece adopts a stray dog she saw hit 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 poops in front of the fireplace and voila, it’s me!) I would need a bong hit. But just a little one until after I make dinner and do laundry and write these fucking reviews.
In between all of that, there is a deranged 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 sounds like it’s got a lot going for it.
But in reality, Jessie is pretty dull for a series lead. Her 14-year-old niece, who is only a background player, had more of a recognizable personality, whereas Jessie came across as humourless and without passion. She’s apparently a P.I. 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. It wasn’t vibing.
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 plotline. 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 of 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 its 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 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 off-page 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 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, instead of being involved in things that are happening now.
That kind of crime fiction writing just isn’t for me. It’s a lot of telling, instead of showing. With that approach, I end up feeling like I’m not involved in the story or being taken for a ride, but more like I’m hearing a story from a third party. “I have this friend, who had a missing sister…”
How each plot thread was wrapped up was a letdown. Over 300 pages of buildup, only for things to be resolved OFF-PAGE FFS and relayed to the reader after the fact.
There’s something missing in this novel for me. It didn’t connect. It’s not a bad book by any means, but it’s just ok. It appears to have worked for many of my reviewer friends, but for me, it was lacking in emotional connection and actual thrills.
In this page-turner of a thriller by bestselling author T.R. Ragan, unlikely partners PI Jessie Cole and crime reporter Ben Morrison search for clues to a mystery buried in their own pasts—only to discover that sometimes the truth is better off buried.
Ten years ago, PI Jessie Cole and reporter Ben Morrison each suffered a tragedy that changed their lives—and now these two strangers are about to share a nightmare.
For Jessie, who makes her living finding missing persons, no case has consumed her more than the disappearance of her younger sister, Sophie. But left alone to raise Sophie’s daughter, she realizes that solving the case has become an unhealthy obsession.
For Ben, a horrific car accident resulted in scars both physical and emotional—and amnesia that has made his life a mystery. But curiously, out of his shattered memories, there’s one person he recognizes without a doubt: Jessie’s sister. He just doesn’t know why. Yet.
But Sophie isn’t the only phantom drawing Jessie and Ben together. An elusive serial murderer known as the Heartless Killer has reemerged from the shadows. His next move will cut even deeper into Jessie’s worst fears. And for Ben, what happens this time is going to be unforgettable.
Book source: The publisher, Thomas & Mercer, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.