Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"14" by J.T. Ellison

Lt. Taylor Jackson is faced with a case in which a copycat is duplicating the murders of a serial killer dubbed "The Snow White Killer", whose victims were young women with dark hair and pale skin. That killer disappeared some 20 years ago, and the new murderer is recreating his spree with alarming accuracy, although adding a few touches of his own. Taylor receives some help from FBI agent partner John Baldwin, whilst fretting about her upcoming wedding to him. Tension arises in the form of Charlotte Douglas, an FBI agent with the hots for John (not to mention his ex-lover), plus some valuable information regarding their killer. Thrown into the mess is Taylor's missing father, and his link to a mobster.

Wow, what a mess. I don't think Ellison was sure which book she wanted to write. A serial killer thriller about and old murderer and his apprentice? Or a police procedural about a police lieutenant torn between family and duty? So, yep, she simply decides to combine the two. While she manages to draw some links between the two plot strands, it's not enough for this to come off as a cohesive whole. For the first half of the book, Taylor and her team are tracking down a serial killer. For the second half of the book, they're trying to bring down a mobster, with the serial killer plotline wrapped up with little fanfare. In fact, it's hard to find a less exciting way to wrap up a psycho-murderer plotline. And since he manages to elude capture quite easily at the end without even being identified (will he show up in a later book? who knows?), makes you wonder what the whole damn point was.

Another secondary plotline involves Taylor's apprehension at getting married to Baldwin. It never feels genuine, and simply comes across as a desperate attempt to inject a little romantic tension into the proceedings, especially since this is published by Mira, who specialise in romantic fiction. The title "14" in itself bothered me - it has absolutely no relevance to the plot. When the book starts, there is mention of the fact that Snow White had 10 victims in total and the murderer has now reached 4 - but the body count quickly goes up from there, and there is no special significance attributed to the number 14 at any other point in the book. It's just further indication that Ellison seemed clueless as to what to do or where to go with her story. Half by-the-numbers serial killer thriller, half yawn-inducing-catch-the-mobster police procedural, this has no real plot twists, no startling character revelations, zero suspense - in other words, a one-hundred per cent fail.

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