(As a note of how tired I am as I write this, I almost named the wrong book in the title. I almost gave it the name of a fictional book I’ve included in a recent short story. Wheeee…)
I think it’s good that I’ve delayed this review a little and had a chance to discuss it with another reviewer, because I’ve learned something about myself and the genre. Some of my problems with the book were genre staples, and some of my opinions had a chance to be clarified. But here’s the long and the short of it.
This is a really good thriller. I’m just not sure I actually like them.
When I first got done with this book, I was speaking to another reviewer for the publishing house that this book is being released through, and I warned him that the book was grim–and this coming from someone who has never once said that about Song of Ice and Fire. This was just dark and depressing and painful at times. The main character was fantastic and I genuinely enjoyed him, but the plot just seemed unrelenting.
This, apparently, is common in thrillers.
The book follows Deacon Munroe, an investigator who is well-spoken, smart, connected–and blind. He’s very familiar with the people of Washington, DC, particularly those working in organizations often referred to by acronyms. A friend (and very high-ranking general) has died, and Deacon believes that something more is behind this than a “simple” murder-suicide of the general and his wife. As he continues poking, he begins to see the threads that link this death back to a much larger organization…and they’re not pleased. It becomes a classic race against the clock as Deacon and his team attempt to stop the attack the bad guys have on the city, and try to keep all of them living.
As a forewarning to anyone who may not be aware: there is a lot of death. All the death. So much death. Every other chapter death. Characters you just met death. (You get the picture.) For me, this is disconcerting. I enjoy character in my novels; I like seeing people grow and change. When you bring in a character only to kill them in the next chapter, I have trouble connecting with any of your characters. Who’s to say that they won’t die too? I avoid this with ASoIaF in that I assume everyone will die, so I don’t even try to get attached. (This only works to a certain extent.) In addition to that, it generally takes more than a few chapters before important people die. Ned got at least half a book, yeah? Maybe a whole book! (Uh, is that still a spoiler?)
However, there is a caveat to this: everyone will die as soon as the bad guys decide they will–unless your name is Deacon Munroe. It makes the bad guys sound like Stormtroopers: described as being these amazing shots, but as soon as our hero reaches the scene, they couldn’t hit the broad side of a Death Star. There is at least a shade of nuance to the villains; we have the conscience of the group, who makes a point of reminding us that he’s “not that bad” each time he’s ordered to kill someone, and we know that he “wished he didn’t have to do this.” This becomes tiresome, at least for me, after a few deaths. Dude, you clearly don’t seem to care as much as you’d like us to believe.
All this aside, Cross is a fantastic writer. He’s descriptive, detailed, and clearly has done his research. Deacon is given an excellent level of depth to his lack of sight; his relationships with his family and friends is nuanced and genuine. (I particularly like his daughters.) The characters who to stick around have time and thought invested in them, and they’re (relatively) easy to like. There is a fantastically executed Chekhov’s Gun in the story, which I’m proud to say I caught, but isn’t made blatantly obvious. (I just particularly look for them.) And the ending is satisfying, if not surprising.
As I discussed with my fellow reviewer, the body count is perhaps a little high in this book, but I have been assured that it’s common. If it is, I’m not sure how anyone gets through these books. It makes it very difficult to invest in the story. Also, as this is very obviously set up to lead into a sequel, one of the deaths is unfortunate as it drops a huge opportunity for discussion into Deacon’s character and his association with the others–as well as Cross never truly making the “replacement” work out completely. I would be tempted to read a sequel if and when it comes, but I’ll need to brace myself.
And prepare to read lots of fluffy happy stories afterward.
Rating: **** – Recommended
BLIND JUSTICE hits shelves August 25th, 2015.