"You don't let go. You don't let up."
NOTE: I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program
Jack Gannon works as a reporter at the Buffalo Sentinel. He catches wind of the murder of a troubled former nursing student and decides to investigate. But as he does, he gets into more and more murky waters as one of the top suspects ends up being an upstanding police officer.
Rick Mofina doesn't spend an excess of time on details. His writing is pretty cut and dry, minimal details needed to set the scene. This fits the genre (hard crime) very well.
The concept is very interesting, and I felt that Mofina did a good, convincing job of why a reporter would investigate a homicide. I get tired of the "Nancy Drew"-ish mold, which are incredibly challenging to believe that police would allow such amateur investigations.
The mystery is pretty good. I like how Rick Mofina continues to have the "bad guy" kill, that he doesn't stop when he murders the nursing student (I read a mystery where the murders just stop, for no reason, which really deadens the intensity and suspense) and that the police continue to find bodies as they continue their investigation. Also, the story behind Styebeck's family is very interesting and sounds very realistic.
Also, I really appreciated the short chapters. At the change of a character or the end of a scene, you get a new chapter. Sure, there are 70+, but since the writing is already choppy, it doesn't matter if chapter length makes it that way too.
I Didn't Like:
I suppose it is common for the hard biting crime novel to have very choppy writing, but I must admit, it came as a shock to me. Descriptions are few and far between. Things happen quickly and are retold in as few words as possible.
But then, halfway through the book, it's almost as if he were told to "frill it up" a bit, so he stops, mid-action sometimes, to give a one page biography of said person. In the case of Gannon, okay, I understand. Jolene, again, understandable. Styebeck, okay, that makes sense too even if it does shave off quite a bit of the excitement and thrill. But Rose, the detective in Kansas? Melody, who is considering hiring Gannon? Zachary, the poor boy who finds a dead body? Valerie, the ex-homicide detective? Why? None of the characters stand out as it is, otherwise a background would be cool. And many of the characters are "one-shot": they have one section dedicated to their point of view, and then they fade back to oblivion. Why waste the reader's time with Rose and her husband and two kids or Valerie's retirement or how Zachary's older brother picks on him? They appear once and disappear, thus making their life story meaningless in the grand picture (and only page filler).
Also, relating to style, I didn't think it a smart move to have Styebeck's point of view shown. In fact, I think overall there are too many points of view in this book. We have Gannon, Jolene, Styebeck, Brent, Rose, Valerie, Zachary, Melody...too many people! It really diminishes the tension in the novel, the thrill. I would have kept the point of view to Gannon and Gannon alone. Or perhaps Gannon and Jolene.
I had troubles really relating to any of the characters, as most of them are of the cardboard variety or the stereotype variety. I wasn't fond of the "older sister ran away" angle to Gannon's character, and would have loved to have learned less about Styebeck's family...at least when it was told in flashback (it would have been neater to just have Gannon investigate to find that out).
Some of the events I felt didn't occur in a realistic manner. For instance, at one point, Jolene tries to runaway. Her big plan, is to untie wrists (good), remove the door (good), then get behind the bad guy and hit him with a rock (good). But then, instead of making sure he's dead and stealing the truck, she runs away. Of course we know that the bad guy will make a miraculous recovery and stand up (unbelievable! A man survives a serious concussion with no repercussions whatsoever!). If I were Jolene, I would have hit him hard (he wouldn't have gotten up 10 seconds after being hit), tied him up with duct tape (he ought to have it lying around), and steal the truck, driving back to civilization. But then, that would mean the story would be over almost 50 pages before the real ending.
The conclusion is so-so. A little hurried, rushed, status-quo. All the bad guys get their come-uppance (including Nate Fowler, who fired Gannon), and all the good guys get rewarded (Gannon gets a high-profile job, who pays all the expenses he charged up, including flights to Kansas, Canada, AND Texas; Jolene's boss doesn't bat an eye at paying for all her medical expenses even though she hasn't even started working there). Weak and unlikely, if you ask me.
There are quite a few conveniences in the book...convenient revelations of key information that makes Gannon's investigation easier. I could probably take a few, but after a while, it seemed like Gannon had a tendency to trip onto the clues, rather than really investigate.
Repetition is commonplace. Repetition occurs frequently in the book. Many of the details and backstories are repeated in the novel (is it getting annoying yet?). Twice we are told what ViCAP is; once at the beginning (okay, no big deal), then yet again with Rose. Once was enoug, thank you. The story of Deke is told twice: once in flashbacks and once when Gannon discovers it. Deke's story is actually kinda interesting...but when you read it in flashback THEN have our protagonist find it out, it really deadens the impact. The reader is like, "Yup, learned that already" and is tempted (or does) skip ahead.
Mild, with a spattering of f-bombs.
The woman who dies is a prostitute. Styebeck is accused of using a prostitute's services.
Pretty gruesome, without being really gruesome. Bernice is said to be found in a nasty state, in a shallow grave. Many other deaths occur in the book, and while none are told in clinical detail, all are given the impression of being terribly icky.
The book takes some warming up to, particularly due to the writing style and the choice to include the so many bland characters' points of view. "Vengeance Road" is not the worst book I've read; it did a good job of being a nice distraction without consuming too much of my thoughts. But I didn't find it very thrilling or suspenseful, and it was far too easy to put the book down (a no-no for a thriller). 2.5 stars rounded to 3.