Rebecca's Reviews > The Specialist

The Specialist by Gordon Aalborg
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's review
Aug 07, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: 100-pages
Read from August 01 to 06, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I wanted to like this more. I really did. The premise is interesting, the blurb on the book jacket sounded great, and actually, the writing was pretty good. The main characters were reasonably likable and fairly well developed. But the plot was...I don't even know what.

First of all, there wasn't a lot of development in the secondary characters. They'd pop up for their individual contributions to the plot, and then go away again, without really doing anything more than just being cardboard cutouts or props. Also, there only two possibilities for the serial killers among the named characters (well, one strayed through briefly, and he was almost immediately discounted, so... 2 1/2), and from there it was pretty easy to figure out who it had to be. There were some "clues" tossed around that were probably meant to sow confusion, but they might as well have been tagged with neon signs reading "Look, red herrings!" There was no explanation of the specialist, nor do I find a lot of his behavior credible, from what I understand about psychological profiling. And somehow or another, although we were introduced a lot of creepy and horrifying things that the Specialist did, I never found him that frightening or intimidating. Sorry.

Actually, the whole thing was kind of....boring. The action built at a snail's pace, and even the "climax" at the end was bizarrely dull. The author clearly wasn't going to "go there" and kill a named character, so I didn't have to worry about the fate of the characters--they would clearly get out okay, somehow or another. I did give credit for tying in something I thought was just a plot bunny at the very end, but I felt no real sense of suspense or fear or mystery, even in such a confined and claustrophobic setting. Come on--it's an underground cat-and-mouse game in a CAVE. That one practically HANDS you the chills, and I really couldn't get there. After taking over 200 pages to build to 50 pages of action (I kept looking at the remaining pages and thinking "...when does the scary start?"), I expected a bigger bang than I got. What little anticipation he'd managed to build fell flat, and the horrors he did manage to inflict weren't described in enough detail to make them flinch-worthy. Also, mystery writers seem to feel entitled to bring the book to an abrupt end immediately after the climax, with no clean up or explanation or even consideration of the other side plots they've tried to introduce. Action scene! Rescue! Revenge on bad guy! FIN! Really? It seems to be a genre-wide thing, so it's not fair to hold it completely against this author, but still. Lazy writing.

So I will probably read another book by the author if I run across one, because the writing itself wasn't too painful, I'd just like to see what he can do with a story that feels like a real novel and is longer. 274 pages isn't enough to build the kind of story that he was trying to tell here, but he could benefit from a second chance.
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