Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Blood Runs Cold" by Alex Barclay

Special Agent Ren Bryce is chosen to head up the task force investigating the murder of another FBI Agent, Jean Transom. The investigation is hampered by the fact that the body gets swept away by an unexpected avalanche and can't be located. She falls for her informant, which could possibly compromise the investigation.

That's about as much plot that can be described for this deadeningly paced junk. You could easily skip to page 267 (part two) and barely miss a thing. That's how little happens in the first two thirds of the book. Since there is no body, there aren't many avenues for the investigation to take. Instead, Ren gets into a relationship with informant Billy Waites, who works at the Brockton Filly, a local pub. Most of the book is taken up with their stop-start romance and Ren's calls to her shrink to complain about her complicated life. Combine that with Ren and her task force colleagues' constant sass-talking and you'd be forgiven for thinking that nobody involved seems particularly concerned with tracking down a murderer, least of all the author.

The mystery gets wrapped up with little fanfare (there's a distinct paucity of suspects), and then thirty-odd pages are left over for the author to deliver a series of twists related to (very) minor subplots sprinkled earlier throughout the story. But because there has been so little detail or build-up regarding these subplots, said twists evoke little more than a "so what?" mentality. They hardly justify the fact we've slogged through endless pages of Ren's paranoia, insecurities and general whining.

Alex Barclay is the author of two previous novels, "Darkhouse" and "The Caller", both of which I've read - and they're not bad. They featured a different protagonist. It's quite rare for a crime author to abandon a series of books featuring a main character, only to start a new series with another character (a follow-up Ren Bryce thriller called "Time Of Death" has just hit stores at the time of writing, one of the reasons I picked up this long-ago-purchased-but-not-yet-read thriller). One can possibly assume the other series wasn't selling well and publishers urged Barclay to start afresh? But on the evidence of this appalling go-nowhere snoozefest, it's hard to think why. "Darkhouse" and "The Caller" were much better novels and I cannot think of a legitimate reason why anybody should plunk down cash for this drivel.

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