J.M.'s Reviews > 18 Seconds

18 Seconds by George D. Shuman
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May 27, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: borrowed
Read from May 17 to 26, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Borrowed from my brother. He read it and thought I'd enjoy it, mostly because it's set in Wildwood, NJ.

I enjoyed the story enough to finish it, but I probably won't be reading anything else by Mr. Shuman again. I had too many issues with this, his first novel.

The premise is that a sociopath named Earl Sykes is released from jail because he's dying of cancer (and because he was in prison for a charge unrelated to his murder string, which the police never solved). He leaves with thoughts of revenge on the police lieutenant who put him in jail as well as on the woman (Susan) who used to run with him when he was younger. He saw her as a loose end to tie up.

Sherry Moore is a blind woman who can "read" the last 18 seconds of a person's life by touching the hand of the deceased. She is often asked to help out in police cases around the country, but the last one she worked on haunts her still. She is in love with John Payne, a close friend and police detective in Philadelphia who is married.

Kerry O'Shaughnessy is the current police lieutenant in Wildwood. Daughter to the man who put Sykes behind bars, she is faced with two missing persons cases involving young women disappearing from the boardwalk.

Recently Susan's father died from a nasty fall in his nursing home, and Detective Payne thinks there may be some link between his death and Susan's, when she's found shot. So he asks O'Shaughnessy if he can bring Sherry by to "feel" his last moments for any clues.

While it's an interesting premise, a lot is made of Sherry in the blurb but I didn't feel she was in the book as much as she should have been. The action jumped between many characters, never really giving you much time with any of them. And by jumping around, I mean Shuman head-hops between points of view in every single scene containing more than one character. It's distracting and a little upsetting that modern authors (and their editiors) don't quite grasp the concept of third person omniscient POV.

Though the book opens with Sherry working on an unrelated case, she doesn't get much face time after that, just a few scenes here and there to show us her relationship with John, until things pick up in Wildwood. And that's literally at the end of the book. So if you're looking for a story with emphasis on the psychic element, this isn't it,

A lot of the story focused instead on Sykes. I got the impression you were supposed to feel like the net was closing in on him, but O'Shaughnessy doesn't clue in to what role he plays in the murders until the last few pages, just before he attacks. I would have liked more detective work that actually played out during the course of the book ~ instead we got a lot dead ends and O'Shaughnessy's frustration when everything she tried to do relating to the case failed.

I felt the whole back story of O'Shaughnessy's separation from her husband and her rebound relationship with the district attorney was distracting, to say the least. It wasn't necessary to the story, IMHO. Also, the cop Dillard who resented O'Shaughnessy's authority was over the top, too stereotypical for me. The jail psychologist who watched Sykes as he walked out of prison in the beginning of the book didn't bother calling detectives in Wildwood until the final pages of the story, but whatever she said wasn't shared with readers and in the end did little to advance the plot.

Finally, the ending was a let down, to say the least. Once Sykes kidnaps Sherry and O'Shaughnessy both, they escape too easily with little damage done. I mean, this guy has killed dozens of other women! Why does he suddenly have a severe lapse of judgment that allows this to happen? Also, the convenient fact that Sherry knows kick-ass moves of advanced martial arts isn't really explained.

However, what really bothered me about the ending is that it was a bit insulting three able-bodied women couldn't overpower Sykes on his own. Instead a minor character named Jeremy was used, possibly to redeem him after the police suspected he had something to do with the missing persons cases. Given that Jeremy was mentally retarded as a result of the horrific traffic accident that sent Sykes to jail in the first place, I felt his inclusion in taking down the bad guy was too much.

At no point did I feel the gripping tension reviewers claim to have felt while reading this story. The final confrontation was over too quickly with little suspense and Sykes' death at the end just smacked of Hollywood to me. I would have rather seen him held accountable for his actions, but maybe that's just me.

Overall, this isn't the worst book I've ever read ~ I did finish it, which is saying something. I can see why my brother picked it up, because it's one of those mindless beach reads you throw away with the sand. I didn't care enough about Sherry by the end of the book to want to buy another story involving her talents, and that saddens me because I usually like thrillers, particularly those with some degree of clairvoyant or supernatural aspect.
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