The author of this novel is obviously an intelligent dude. While some readers may find medicalese a difficult language to navigate, I thought it made...moreThe author of this novel is obviously an intelligent dude. While some readers may find medicalese a difficult language to navigate, I thought it made this thriller waaaay more thrilling than it would've been otherwise. When our main character, Chief Resident Steve Mitchell, is up to his elbows in tumors and delicate procedures, it's hard to look away. You feel every placement of Steve's instruments in this story and Parsons does a pretty good job of explaining all of the procedures and the stakes involved.
And if Doing Harm was just about Mitchell dealing with those things, this would be an awesome story. Alas...he went and added more 'plot' in the form of a questionable cat-and-mouse game between Mitchell and a bad guy whom I shall not name here.
Without giving too many massive spoilers away -- the problem with this story is that the villain is not believable. All I'm going to say is that you cannot just label someone a 'psychopath' and expect readers to just go along. Basically it boils down to this: the baddy thinks Mitchell is a really smart guy and wants to challenge him to a game of life-or-death for the hell of it. Umm...no. There needs to be motivation from both the protagonist and the antagonist. Unfortunately, the first half of this book was leading to a five star review and then I found out who the antagonist was and the reasoning behind these evil medical murders. It was kinda disappointing. (less)
Had I just picked this up having never read Chelsea Cain before, I think I might've rated this one higher. However, I really love Gretchen Lowell (wel...moreHad I just picked this up having never read Chelsea Cain before, I think I might've rated this one higher. However, I really love Gretchen Lowell (well, not love in her case...more love to hate) and Archie. The characters -- Kick and Bishop -- in this new series aren't quite as get-behind for me.
Some of that has to be that I felt like Cain was keeping her cards too close to her chest in order to have something else to write about in the next book. By the end (this may be a spoiler?) we still don't know anything about Bishop that's real -- who his wife is (does he really have one?), who he works for, etc.
And, speaking of Bishop, I didn't like his introduction either. Cain presents him as someone who 'gets it' in an almost prescient sense. So, if he's someone who understands Kick and her situation and he's behaving the way he is...well, he's a dickhead. And I don't know if I'll like him, in spite of the fact that I feel like I'm supposed to like him.
I don't know if any of that made sense.
Cain's strength here is the same as always: how the hell does she make these crazy situations seem plausible? Sexy female serial killers? Incredibly wealthy hunters of sexual predators?
I think it's because the characters (most of them, but Kick especially) behave the way a normal person would in those extraordinary conditions. Kick's bond with her dog, with the FBI agent who rescued her, and even with her kidnappers is wrenching to watch/read. Here I am, reading this kinda unbelievable situation, and I'm tearing up.
So I'm gonna pick up the next book when it comes out...just so I can see those cards Cain is holding so close. (less)
Sometime in the near future, sex offenders are locked away in their own special hell-prison. Tuck, imprisoned for taking nude photos of underage girls...moreSometime in the near future, sex offenders are locked away in their own special hell-prison. Tuck, imprisoned for taking nude photos of underage girls, is being considered for release from the jail where prisoners who try to escape are shot by civic-minded residents of the surrounding town. But releases are not granted easily.
This is a very dark vision of a penal community -- which, strangely enough, is not hard to imagine happening. The play raises great questions about the limits of power, the consequences of actions, and crime and punishment in general.
Lee Blessing has a great talent for dark material. I saw Two Rooms when I was sixteen and I still remember going "Whoa!" This has a similar Whoa factor. (less)
Now, I don't like to psychoanalyze writers based on their novels -- but this one strikes me as Galbraith/Rowling going "I'm gonna kill someone so viol...moreNow, I don't like to psychoanalyze writers based on their novels -- but this one strikes me as Galbraith/Rowling going "I'm gonna kill someone so violently that no one could possibly remember I wrote the bestsellingest children's series of all time."
Because the murder in this one -- it's gruesome. Wonderfully so. And grossly so.
There are only two things keeping me from rating this a full-out five stars:
1. I kept falling asleep. And it has nothing to do with anything being boring or off-pace. I think it has everything to do with Cormoran being so exhausted in the early chapters. He's barely slept. He talks about how achy he is and now he's got this gory murder to solve. He wants to sleep so badly that I think it made me tired. So I didn't read this as quickly as I've read the others.
2. For about the last eighth of the book, Cormoran knows whodunit -- he even tells his intrepid sidekick/assistant Robin who it is -- but not the reader. There's about twenty pages of obnoxious card-holding. And there aren't really any extra clues after that, so you kinda want to go back and re-read what you've read to see if you can make an educated guess before the big reveal -- which you know will be coming any minute because the narrative practically screams "You'll know who it is any minute now! Just not now! But in a minute!" Which is no fun.
But it's still awesome. There's a lot of novelist talk, which is fun coming from the bestsellingest novelist ever. (less)
First, a brief low-down: A young man drives a Mercedes into crowd of job-seekers at a job fair. He kills eight people, wounds a bunch of others, and t...moreFirst, a brief low-down: A young man drives a Mercedes into crowd of job-seekers at a job fair. He kills eight people, wounds a bunch of others, and then seems to drop off the face of the earth. Then we jump a year later and meet retired Detective Kermit William Hodges, a.k.a. Bill, who was the lead investigator on the case. Bill is depressed and considering suicide when the Mercedes Killer sends him a letter telling him to go ahead and off himself, unwittingly giving Bill a reason to live: namely, to hunt down the bastard who ran through a mass of people with a stolen Mercedes.
For those who may be looking for a horror fix...this isn't it. (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.) Mr. Mercedes has more in common with Sue Grafton and J.K. Rowling's alter-ego Robert Galbraith than it does with The Shining or It. As a reader, I don't mind that at all. The bad guy is definitely bad and the good guy has enough questionable motives to make it a quick, interesting read.
There are definitely some plot holes and leaps of faith that the reader has to make, but if you read it quick enough (like I did) you won't think about the problems long enough to truly distract you.
My biggest issue (not counting plot holes and leaps of faith) with the novel related to a more basic issue -- it felt like the beginning of a series. I felt only marginally introduced to the main character (strange, right?) and his former partners. I was only gonna give this book two stars...then, lo, I arrive at Goodreads and find this is the first part of a trilogy? I have rounded my star rating up in hopes that the next couple novels will fix the distance-y issues I was experiencing.
An example of a 'distance-y' issue (a term I have coined my own self): The sidekicks. Jerome and Holly. First off, the sidekicks don't come into the story in any measurable way until almost the end, which was a bummer because they were great foils for Hodges that were massively under-utilized -- they could have presented the arguments and counter-arguments to Hodges thought process...rather than the reader going "What the hell, dude?" And considering the pivotal roles they play, it's kinda disappointing to not spend more time with them.
But, I mean, dudes, it's still King. Plenty of attitude and spark through the pages to keep 'em turning. I especially love the emails between hero and villain. Snarky. Good times. (less)
I can't tell you how much I WANTED to LOVE this book. Everything about the premise was cool: a multi-media presentation, creepy isolated directors, cu...moreI can't tell you how much I WANTED to LOVE this book. Everything about the premise was cool: a multi-media presentation, creepy isolated directors, cultish horror movies. There's nothing at all wrong with any of those things.
But about a third of the way in, I realized I was bored.
Here's McGrath, an investigative journalist who has had his life trashed because of his obsessive look into Stanislas Cordova -- a man who makes horror movies more legendary than anything Hitchcock or Wes Craven could dream of. McGrath believes Cordova does more than make cult-like films, he believes the director actually runs a cult of sorts. When Cordova's daughter, Ashley, kills herself, McGrath takes the opportunity to dig into Cordova once again -- this time determined to prove he was right about the reclusive genius once and for all.
McGrath suspects Cordova of everything under the sun: murder, mayhem, abuse, and witchcraft. He's running off an anonymous tip he got years ago, when a man named John called and warned, "There's something he does to the children."
Joined by Hopper, a street punk with a strange past, and Nora, a homeless girl with a strange past, McGrath digs into Ashley's death. Through the course of the investigation they break into all sorts of places (an asylum, a secret soiree, an antique store, and Cordova's compound residence). McGrath's apartment is broken into and all his research stolen. There are shadowy figures everywhere.
In spite of all this, however, I never felt a sense of threat.
Every situation that should be fraught with stress and danger just falls kinda flat. At one point, when the dynamic trio break onto Cordova's property, McGrath actually takes a nap after being chased by dogs. Admittedly, that's probably a result of the hypothermia he's suffering...but still, this is fiction. A nap? Really? The price of that real-life detail was tension. If a character can afford to fall asleep during his chase scene, there's not much for the reader to invest in.
And, unfortunately, one of the coolest conceits of the novel -- the multi-media excerpts from police reports, magazine articles, internet pieces, etc. -- flat-out stops a third of the way through. There are a couple articles at the end that read more like someone half-remembered to put it back in.
So, for me, it didn't ring the bells that I so wanted it to ring. I did enjoy the multi-media. I totally love the concept. The idea of evil overlord moviemaker is one of the coolest concepts on earth, with the possible exception of time-traveling Johnny Depp pirate overlords. In the end, I didn't fall in love with the characters and I really didn't feel they were ever in real danger -- which is one of the hardest blows to a mystery/horror novel. (less)
What I find amazing is that the Stephen King who wrote The Gunslinger is obviously so much younger and more in...moreNot gonna write a whole BIG review, but!
What I find amazing is that the Stephen King who wrote The Gunslinger is obviously so much younger and more inexperienced than the Stephen King who wrote . All of my frustration and irritation at Gunslinger was fixed -- completely fixed -- by the end of the prologue of this book. Perfect, badass Roland is given a very believable disability early on and that single incident drives the rest of the book. This set-up is very different than the whole man who could shoot up towns without blinking an eye. It made Roland more likable and the stakes much more dangerous. Shows King as a much more mature writer. Just to see the difference between book one and book two is a reading experience.