Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lisa Gardner/THE KILLING HOUR

I'm not usually a big thriller/romantic suspense reader but I'm trying to expand my horizons, and I expanded them into Lisa Gardner's THE KILLING HOUR. I'm glad I did. This is apparently a sequel to THE NEXT ACCIDENT, but I didn't have any trouble following along without having read that book.

Five years ago, pairs of women in Georgia were kidnapped, usually after leaving a bar. One would be killed right away and dumped in a public location. On her body would be clues (leaves, rocks, etc.) to lead investigators to the other woman: who'd been left in the blinding sun with only a bottle of water. At first the police didn't realize the items on the first bodies were clues, but eventually they did, and the second woman of the fourth pair kidnapped was rescued. The killer had murdered seven women, and the crime spree stopped.

When it starts again, the new body is dumped in an FBI training camp in Virginia, which naturally stirs up a lot of attention. Agent-in-training Kimberly Quincy finds the body, and winds up working with a Georgian investigator, Mac McCormack, to find the second woman before she dies.

The killer has a point of view in the story (always identified as 'the man'), as do Kimberly, Mac, and the second woman, Tina. There are a few other point of view characters as well, from time to time, and I did feel the cast was a bit larger than it needed to be.

The evidence left on the new body is considerably harder to interpret than the earlier evidence, and Kimberly and Mac find a variety of experts to interpret it. I didn't find this overdone, but it was close to the edge. A reference to "they show this being easy on those TV crime shows but it's just not" made me laugh, though.

There is a romantic subplot between Kimberly and Mac, and I could so have done without it. It didn't ring true to me, I didn't feel either of the characters would genuinely have been interested in each other, and it didn't have any impact on how the story unfolded. Fortunately, it was short.

By far the best parts of the story belonged to Tina. The killer dumps her in a hole somewhere, and her struggles to survive and not to let herself give up made my heart race every time.

Several main characters have had very traumatic pasts, and Gardner does a nice job of gradually revealing these, to the degree we need to know them, without being annoying by constantly teasing us by mentioning the past and not explaining it.

I did identify the killer before the investigation did, but only just. An earlier casual mention of something odd someone did had me on the wrong track for probably half the book, which was fun.

For what I'd expected to be a scary book, I wasn't scared. I am a grade-A chicken (I had to hide my eyes for part of "I, Robot", for crying out loud!) and I didn't find this book frightening. Sad, in that someone would use these innocent women to make a point (a point that was never 100% clear in my mind), but not frightening.

Still, I read it in one sitting, and I would read more by Lisa Gardner.

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