Boring and slow moving. Disappointing since I am always thrilled to see a new JK release. I am writing this six weeks after I read it; I actually had to re-read the synopsis to remind me what it was about.
For the most part, believable, though the kinesics sort of got in the way. It was kind of text-booky the way Kathryn Dance described the tics and gestures of the liars she encounteres.
Daniel Pell is competing with Manson for world fame. The book competes at the same level, trying to create a "family" for Pell, one comprising weak-willed women who do his bidding. Shrug. Pell is a master at escaping and stalking the people who wronged him. That was a little much.
The "Sleeping Doll" of the title, wakes up one day and tells her story. It's pretty unremarkable. I think the author wanted us to feel so bad for her that she held that secret for so long and then she grew up and stood up for herself. But the "secret," such that it is .. is nothing, and it does nothing to help find Pell.
One problem I had, which was probably only evident in listening as opposed to reading text. Daniel Pell, Kathryn Dance, Rebecca, Samantha, and others.. all the names started to sound alike. A bit difficult to keep them all straight.
I found the use of masks and disguises to be a very childish device for the writer. It's a fallback that helps the writer avoid having to come up with plausible explanations for the killer's ability to escape detection. Reading some of the dressup scenes made me yawn.
I liked it well enough, and I'll look at other Deaver books. Not necessarily a "page turner," it stuck with me and I really liked the concepts of lie detection that it explained. (I loved "Lie to Me" on TV).
Interesting and plenty of twists. Maybe a bit too long; too many end of story twists. I'm the type that likes my endings clean and final. Even though there is an ambiguous suggestion at the end concerning one bad guy, it is okay and appropriate. But the final actions taken against some other contributors to the mayhem were a bit extreme. Not that the actions weren't warranted -- in real life it would have "made sense" and all, but it was unnecessary to the plot -- I think.
There was a kindness shown one of the victims that I am not sure I quite buy. I think that the prime victim in the book, the one the reader is rooting for, would have suffered a more terrible end than this book offers. It's as if the author felt like the whole mess was so bad, so grisly and so horrific, he needed to add a little relief, to the detriment of the story's believability.
I am not sure I liked the volley between first person and third person. There was something off for me, watching the action through Alex's eyes and mind and then being omniscient and knowing what everyone in the world is thinking, though Alex isn't even present. I never lost consciousness of that switch. I don't think it was done well enough.
Another thing that was "wrong" with it for me was my lack of connecting to the characters. I didn't give a hoot about any of them. The single victim Alex is seeking throughout the book is the only one I cared about -- and I didn't care except that I wanted closure about what happened to that person. It wasn't emotional.
There are some well-handled sex scenes between Alex and a "white woman," and I appreciated the subtlety of the romantic encounters. But I didn't believe that either. Alex was so "into" her and she was so cool and disconnected. But smart, psychologist Alex missed the cues? Also, Alex was very much aware of the social differences between blacks and whites, and he was vocal about the inequality between black and white victims. No matter how gorgeous Jezzy might have been, I think Alex would have been less easily enticed into this dangerous pairing. Not too convincing. Not that it couldn't and doesn't happen; it's just that Alex is drawn to be very much a racial-centric kind of guy. It would take more than blonde hair and blue eyes to get his juices flowing -- and to bring her home to meet his kids -- not likely so quickly. Alex's grandmother came up short too. She was drawn as the wise old g'ma, but she was a walking cliché who never really raised a lather about the things she confronted in this story.
About the main perpetrator. Very bad guy whose beginnings are clearly laid out so that we understand (sympathize with?) his tragic trajectory. By the way, it's pretty cool that some of the ancillary bad guys also had some kind of parent issues (not abuse but neglect and ignorance).
The apparent split-personality that is suggested as a foundation of the killer's actions felt wrong too. I don't know except from other books and movies, but this guy, even if he is a dual personality, was so manipulative, so over the top, so successful, that I'm more inclined to think he suffers from one of the personality disorders which gives him a believable omnipotence. But Alex is supposed to be a shrink and he's not sure either. In the end, we don't really know if the killer was motivated by his previous (psychological) abuse. There is a nice juxtaposition between "Gary's childhood" and the missing child's situation.
It was better than "ok" but not "really good." It does not deter me from continuing the Alex Cross series.
The narrator was very good, and he smoothly handled the switches in point-of-view.
I know this is an oldie, and we cannot judge it by Kellerman's recent work, but really, it was a little too preposterous. ALERT: There are scenes that describe graphic child sexual abuse here. There are words/phrases that would be unspeakable in today's sensitive times. But we cannot slight JK for that -- that was then and this is now.
No, my complaints are about the way the story unfolds. First there is some detective work that combines Milo & Alex, then Milo disappears and Alex is a psychologist, detective, and near-mercenary. There are some nice homey scenes between Milo and Alex and their respective amours, but not enough of them.
At any rate, the bad guys are rounded up and the most hated of them have stories to tell; long, stories, told in retrospect, as if it justified their adult behavior.
Alex treks to other states, gets in fights, shoots, captures and threatens people until the truth comes out. When it does, all the truths link up into a somewhat surprising outcome.
I am glad that JK decided to take the weapons away from Alex in his later, more mature books.
I know it was the launch of the series, so for me, having read all the subsequent books, this one lacks the cohesiveness and logic of the best and most modern of the Alex/Milo canon.
I would not recommend this book, however, because of the graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse. I would feel responsible to someone who read it on my recommendation and encountered this content. I would not recommend it to anyone who loves the Milo/Alex pairings because this one does not illustrate their relationship as we have come to expect.
For a first time reader of JK, it is always best to begin a series at the beginning, and this one, because of some of the content, might turn someone away.
I had to check to be sure, but there is a movie (1994) of the same title, which seems to include some aspects of this plot, though it doesn't seem an exact rendering.
I liked it. The twists, such as they were, were not outrageous, the final scenes about Jacob were a bit surprising because of their being so unconventional. It is very unconventional because we (Americans) do not believe parent-child relationships can go in this direction. Frankly, I don't know who was more outrageous -- the parent who couldn't accept a probable truth that was fairly convincing or the parent who accepted the truth and felt it necessary to do something in response.
The court room scenes were a little too long and tedious, and some of the conversations were stilted and unrealistic, but if you're writing a story about something.. in this case a man, his father and his child, you have to start with a premise: What if a child grows up and fulfills the fears a father has as relates to his own inherited psychology? Does the apparent outcome succeed in proving the existence of a "murder" gene? Did Jacob inherit it? Was Laurie affected by living with this "gene" in her midst?
The story brings up many avenues for critical thinking.
It is buried in a story that, if not riveting, was fairly well done.
Worth the credit, worth thinking and talking about it.
I hope I can say enough about this horrible book that will keep enthusiastic hopefuls from spending time and money to acquire it. I cannot compare it to anything else by Coban except for "Stay Close," which was marginally readable. But this one, it's so bad, so implausible, so repetitive, so convoluted that it seems to have been written by a first year Composition student. The cliches are rampant. The love story that drives the dumb plot is dumber than that student writer's first draft. This man, this protagonist, Jake Fisher, is such a mope, such a feminized character that his described big, handsome physique seems wrong. His "fight" scenes are successful because of luck and some tricks, not because he is so enraged and impassioned that he is aggressive or cunning. His best friend, (requisite "black guy") Benedict is not as he seems. There is a sweet waitress and a crotchety old secretary. Everyone lies. There are (non-Italian) mobsters and African drug cartels. There are funky FBI agents and fence-riding cops. There is a lot of shooting and running and disguising. There are two references (in case you missed the first one) to a Lesbian couple. So Coban hit all the right notes politically. But none of that can Bandaid a shoddy story and lousy, boring characters who generate no sympathy (from me).
The ending lines actually explain the whole thing, and once you know why Natalie has disappeared, it's pretty flaccid. I still couldn't have cared less. By the time we are told why Natalie disappeared, we have been exhausted by events that do NOTHING to advance the Natalie story.
Many reviewers described this as a wild ride, high-tension, edge-of-the seat thrill. Not even a little bit of this story was so compelling. If I had bought a hard copy, I would have demanded my money back; I couldn't have sat still in one place to complete it.
Narrator: I usually love Scott Brick, but his intonation of Jake was so tired, I wondered if he was told to read it like that by the author. I will always choose Scott Brick if I have an option, but Coban won't be on my favorite authors list.
The beauty of this series is AXP's interest in and contribution to the story; in this one he opened and he closed the story, but the plot was so fragmented that it was hard to decide if this book was about Constance or Pendergast. At the end, even though Constance's role is revealed as being as key, I found this episode weak and not believable.
But the story itself is what lacks the ability to hold interest. There is a monastery, there are monks. There are trusts made and broken. AXP takes off and leaves Constance at the monastery to question the most secluded monk... too easy, really. An important and dangerous artifact is stolen from the monastery and the monks ask Pendergast to retrieve it.
Then there is an ocean voyage and many red herring bad characters. There is an apparently prime story line about the ship's captains, but those also relate to the found/missing artifact. There are ghostly characters, cliched sea characters, a luxury liner about to go Titanic and a half dozen or so odd deaths -- all in service to the missing artifact.
So, the crime is solved, but not before AXP falls under its spell and "disappears" -- by becoming bad AXP ---- for way too long. Constance tries to guide him back to his good self and ultimately AXP's strong thoughts of home and a visit from his dead(?) brother bring him back around to sanity. The ship is not lost and the bedeviled characters regain their sea legs. There is a reappearance of a former nemesis, and the book closes with suggestion of greater devastation to come. Lots of people die.
It is disappointing on many levels. I think that when AXP disappears early on from his own book, you can expect it to be a poorer cousin of the better books. It's as if the star of a series dies mid-season and they have to absent him and make an explanation -- like it was all a dream or some such thing. Except for a rather enjoyable chapter where AXP plays blackjack to foil the card counters on board, it was mostly without Pendergast's usual charm.
I feel I wasted my credit. I would rather have paid $5-6 for this and saved a credit. It was not a "good purchase."
STill, if you follow the series, the story does offer information necessary to go forward to the next, hopefully realistic and harrowing adventure.
I agree with the other posters here that the "ick" factor was excessive and unnecessary. Not sure why it was necessary for the writer to include that particular aspect since the device did not result in any real assistance to solving the crime(s). The two weirdos were used like a red herring, maybe to divert the reader from discovering the true perpetrator.
For me, I sort of "knew" 2/3 thru who was heading up the myriad disappearances. You will too. It's okay, though since you won't be quite sure. The ending is a bit trite. All the explanations and justifications for lifetimes of disappointment, fear, revenge and uncertainty.
The text was good; deep and satisfying. The primary characters mostly believable -- especially Ray Levine. Megan was too dippy to have been who she used to be and her husband way too tolerant.
Left unfinished were the punishments meted out to the people who set the weirdos on the prowl, but other than that, mostly satisfying, understandable, and 75% believable. This won't deter me from another Coban story -- I have liked others of his before -- but I will pay close attention to reviewers who cite the stuff that (for no apparent reason) is included to make me squirm. I can take horror and gore, if it serves a purpose. Here, I don't feel it served anything but an appeal something I can't quite recall. It reminds me of something I've read -- like in Preston & Child, or another series. I am hoping this wasn't a copy-cat effort to compete with the likes of P&C.. there is no way to beat those two at their game.
Harlan Coban should stick to what he does best. If he needs torture and horror, I hope it is better justified in future books.
In all, I liked it. It kept me "turning the page," and I only laughed a few times at improbable scenarios.
The prologue and epilogue were great. The long middle was often tedious and a tad mundane... post-modern crap that wandered along, plotless but incident-rich. The characters were not standouts, but were normal, accurately described people we all know, love and hate.
The problem was not only the lack of a "point," but the lack of cohesion. Many, many things occurred in this long story, but all you really needed and wanted to know was given in the prologue. The resolution of the story questions did not come until the epilogue and then, the explanations were kind of shruggingly okay.
In the middle are several family members, several subsets of families, several buildings and locations whose past, present and future are all linked. We have several unlikable characters, and contrary to common practice, some of these are children, and they are believable. There is a climax crisis seen in a school, it is inevitable, I suppose, but the actions of one of the key child characters is indecisive and, frankly, not well explained. It was as if the author was the father of the child and couldn't commit to allow the child to act as a normal child might have. The father in the book, the key character, Miles, is an overweight softie who has no guidance except that of his gruff (caricature of a) father. He is manipulated by women living and dead and he really has no past to stand him out as a protagonist with something to lose or acquire or adapt to. Many other characters (brother David for one and ex-wife Janine for another) are multi-faceted and have depth. The author gives those characters depth of feeling and contemplation, reflection and acts that change after reflection. For Miles, the author has nothing but irritation.
At the end of the book, the reader is given the explanations to a number of odd events in a few of the characters' lives. Miles makes a decision -- finally -- but it is a decision to do nothing rather than to do something. I got the impression that in the "sequel" (God forbid) we would find the Robey family intact and picnicking on the Whiting land. I learned nothing, I felt little for any of these people and not for one moment do I think I could find this so-called Empire Falls anywhere on the planet. It was not sufficiently engaging. It was like a diary of a bored man.
I gave it three stars because the writing is exquisite. The language, the imagery, the 2nd hand, omniscient description of what characters said and felt were all astute and believable. What was lacking was the voice of the characters as they experienced it.
The narrator, as usual was fabulous and correctly distinguished voices. If I have one complaint about McClarty, it's his attempts at women's voices. But to his credit, they were all equally treated. The women sound like drag queens. Still I'd listen to Ron read anything over some of the other narrators I have endured.
*** for story
** for structure of the novel.
***** for the narrator.
From the first "discovery" of bones until the end of the book when that finding is explained, the story had very little substance. When the explanation of the blue box is given at the end, one wonders how and when Alex put it all together. But then, I may have nodded out during that part.
In fact, the story that surrounds the blue box is more interesting, realistic and emotional than the junk in the middle. There were some interesting "red herrings," some witty anti-stereotypes that did little to hide the fact that some of the fictional personalities were taken from today's tabloids.
The mystery that Milo and Alex investigate together was downright ridiculous, improbable and uninteresting. I wanted to squeeze this quick listen in between some required reading, knowing I could knock down a dozen hours in a day or so. I was wrong. It was so tedious, I couldn't stay with it. I found myself reading the paper and listening to it as background noise, having to rewind to catch up and try to get further with it.
It seemed like the large story that comprises the deaths of several people was contrived to showcase very rich Hollywood types. The anti-stereotype may have been an effort at defusing some clichés that surround that kind of lifestyle. In this mire of wealth are religious fanatics, entrepreneurs, pimps, drug addicts, perfect mothers and lousy fathers, castration, abortion, adoption, bad marriages, murder and taxidermy.
The woman who finds the blue box under the tree of her new home is an unfinished character. She appears 2-3 times throughout the story, has a heart-to-heart with Alex and is "cured." The mother of four whom Alex suspects is a certain type of spoiled and damaging superstar turns out to be June Cleaver. Alex literally stalks one character, and thinking he is *tricking* her into revealing herself, the character, who is on to him at once, tells him Milo everything, incriminating another person. Illogical, unbelievable.
Milo is true to form; if you loved him before, you will love him still. Robin is as bland as Blanche is white. A couple of love scenes between Robin and Alex are all we get about them and they are stilted. In fact, the only *love* in the whole damned thing is demonstrated in the final paragraphs of the whole book and those scenes relate to NOTHING else at all.
Guilt? Almost everyone in this cast of characters is guilty of something.
Mystery? Yes, but fairly easy to put together, because Alex and Milo discuss the possibilities and rate them as feasible or not. Toward the end of the book, Alex recognizes how wrong he had been about some of the elements of the story. So what?
Historical/Scientific/Criminal/Psychological content? Light at best.
Horror? Indirect horror when contemplating the nature of mankind -- historical and current.
Redemptions? None. No turnarounds, no recapitulations, no ah-ha moments, nothing.
Informative/Educational? At approximately the 5th grade level.
Love the narrator though. I have come to depend on that voice -- even the silly female voices -- in Kellerman's books. I hope he stays on until the next one.
Hoping for better sooner than later.
Only three stars because of the somewhat silly scenes. There is a ridiculous jail break, a ridiculous explanation for Diogenes' breakdown and an even more ridiculous across-the-globe chase by a very unlikely pursuer.
However: This is an AX Pendergast novel and that alone recommends it. The above borderline inanities would only be suffered by a true fan. For a first time reader of the series, there is little to no explanation of some of the characters, their histories or their roles in this current episode. Like another reviewer, I regret that the thin white duke makes a late appearance, and one that stretches credulity too far. In the end, there is the requisite chase seen, this one up and down a mountain. The settings bring us back to Italy. We ride trains, visit convents, and traipse the wine country.
There is a disturbing sequence, one that reaches a degree of discomfort I have not encountered in these books thus far. There is a letter left in the aftermath of a devilish seduction. The letter is so heartbreaking, so grievous and so daring (to have put such things in words), that this character's words on the final page of the book, are sadly inevitable. In fact, this final statement made by a normally marginal character, invites a foreshadowing of future prestidigitation and charade among the regular players.
As in all P&C books, there is are lessons to be taught to the reader. We learn some history, a lot of geography, a little neuroscience and a healthy dose of chemistry. The books are veritable fonts of trivia.
By far, in all the scenes in the book, the planning and execution of the two "escapes" are the centerpieces. One precedes the other by very little time, and both are choreographed to deliver the same kinds of messages: The police (except for D'Agosta) are stupid, city government is stupid, academics are passably intelligent but failures outside their area of brilliance. Only Pendergast and D'Agosta -- and some of the help AXP employs -- are able to save the world. That's a superhero for you, or a Christ figure, or maybe a myth.
My usual 4 star rating is reduced for being a little silly and a little too long getting AXP into the action and the crossing the line of good taste in the deception visited upon the most innocent of all the characters.
Do not skip this book if you are a fan and are reading the Diogenes trilogy, but do not start your journey into the world of P&C and AXP with this tome; it might drive you insane.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.