I bought this book because of the comments from truly outstanding crime, mystery, thriller writers including Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, and many others,and I can see why these successful writers admire the character details McDonald uses in the book. His fascination and brilliant presentation of tiny specifics of dress, mannerisms, dialogue and silences speak volumes about the characters and unspoken moments that bring emotion to a character. I also watched the videos from Lee Child and Carl Hiaasen. All this led me to believe it was a crime thriller at its heart, which was, in hindsight, an erroneous conclusion. The authors praise, now in re-reading it, is for character development. Audible even said in its intro "...And forget about the genre of mystery..." and quotes praises for being a novelist.
Since I have no history of the McGee character, no emotional connection with earlier publications and editions, as most of the readers who posted here apparently have, I came to it expecting a thrilling read. What I took away was a story which was about ninety percent relationship between Travis and two broken women whom he nursed or attempted to nurse back to health. The last bit of the book became a mystery, action, thriller but I had early on predicted the outcome of the two central characters and, even though the action ending was exceptionally well written, it came too late in the game for me.
Since I am reading the book today, not years ago when it was written, I winced at the weak and apparently helpless women portrayed at every turn of events, all dependent on Travis to rescue and help them. Perhaps for fans who read the book when it was released it calls up memories of characters prevalent in those days, but it simply felt very old fashioned and overly heroic for me, to the extent that I grew anxious and irritated and began wondering why I was listening to it. The extremely whiny voice given to the main female lead enhanced my discomfort. That being said, I have enjoyed many books with strong male lead characters, it's the consistent and overtly weak and helplessness of the females that just doesn't click (with me). Reminds me of the earlier days of cinema when love stories were about the strong man tricking or exploiting the sexy woman to be his.
I work in film and am well aware of successful directors who have been inspired and influenced by earlier filmmakers ( ex. Max Ophuls who Stanley Kubrick said inspired his vision of filmmaking, Alfred Hitchcock who deeply admired Henri-Georges Clouzot) and can appreciate how mystery writers can admire character techniques McDonald employs in his work. But for this reader, the character technique in this book doesn't fulfill my needs for a strong and engaging crime or mystery story.
The strongest element for me was the unique vocal performance for each of the southern characters, with the exception of the narrator, who seemed unaffected by his native state's dialect. Possible that one could lose their accent but seems noticeably lacking amidst so many other dialects from even the smallest roles.
Alex Cross has nothing whatsoever to do with this plot and using his name and having him make up an intro for three pages feels like a marketing ploy, sadly, to get Cross fans to buy the book,
The major weakness for me is the plot. It feels very predictable from the get go. I never thought the story would end differently than the way it seemed headed. Possible points of suspense during the trial were not developed, stereotypical character reactions left no room for unexpected plot twists and the actions of the main character/narrator in the last sections feel like an pre-adolescent reaction to a life threatening situation that will still exist with the people of the city and could wreak havoc on their lives long after the narrator has returned to Washington.
I saw Mr Patterson on an online Borders Books interview in which he stated he had many books in process, perhaps 17 or more, showing the title pages in folders in his home. He said he worked with other writers on these books, and also said he got payment before he worked on a book. It sounds as if authors come to him with a story, he does a rewrite, they continue to rewrite and his name goes on it. Unfortunately, as with the Women's Murder Club (at least the second and third of the series) quality of writing loses out to quantity of output.
Mr Patterson is gifted with dialogue and plot in some other works, and I only hope he refocuses his creative energy to maintain his obvious skills in remaining works.
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