Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"The Surrogate" by Tania Carver

DI Phil Brennan is head of the task force investigating the murders of pregnant women who have had the baby removed. It's only after the third murder (which opens the book) that the team decides upon Ryan Brotherton as their prime suspect, having obviously not looked at anybody for the first two killings. He's the abusive ex-boyfriend of the victim and wasn't too happy at the prospect of becoming a father.

Criminal profiler Marina Esposito is brought into the investigation to provide insight into the killer's motivation. As luck would have it, she and Phil had a romantic interlude that ended badly. Even luckier, Marina just happens to be pregnant....

"The Surrogate" wants to be a provocative, shocking thriller. The book cover invites comparisons to Karin Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen. Unfortunately, the only thing you're going to find here is another predictable, run-of-the-mill police procedural with stock characters and situations. Your plot doesn't need to be original (gruesome baby-stealing has been the subject of just about every crime TV show and Gerritsen's own "Body Double"), but you at least need to do something interesting with it. Not here. There's not a single trick up this book's sleeve. Not one moment to make you sit up and say "wow". It plods along from start to finish, as if ticking off an invisible list of all the requisite elements of a standard crime novel.

Beyond this, the characters are flat and uninteresting. Phil Brennan is mentioned as having had a bad childhood and now suffering panic attacks. It would also appear that it has made him a willing lapdog of a manipulative bitch like Marina Esposito. You really couldn't ask for a more unlikeable character. She ended things with Phil because he wasn't there to save her from a psycho who blamed her for his being caught. Yes, her happiness, safety and well-being is the entire responsibility of another person. She keeps this attitude up right until the end of the book. And Phil just sits there and takes it. Further to this, she's been carrying on with Phil behind the back of her live-in long-term partner. But she's aimless and unfulfilled, not sure where her life is headed, so that excuses it.

Um, no.

So there you have it. Intercut with a predictable serial killer tale is the romance between a pussy-whipped douche and a selfish cow.

"The Surrogate" isn't the worst crime novel you'll find on the shelf. It at least moves reasonably quickly and has enough of a hard edge to maintain interest. But there are many other authors out there able to take material that has been done before and do something a little different with it, or at least populate the story with quirky characters you like or can relate to. Here I was just turning pages to get to the end, not racing towards it.

No comments:

Post a Comment