Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Heartstopper" by Joy Fielding

Sandy Crosbie is a teacher at a school in Torrance, Florida, a place she moved to with her family shortly before her husband dumped her for the town's resident sexpot. Struggling to raise two teenage children by herself, combined with teaching an English class full of self-absorbed teenagers who couldn't care less about the material, is stretching Sandy to the max. Adding to her worries is the fact that there could be a serial killer operating in the town, as one of her daughter's classmates has already been discovered murdered.

Sheriff John Weber tries to gather up clues without having to resort to calling in the FBI, but there doesn't appear to be any motive to the crime. And with so many town members hiding a variety of secrets, it's hard to sort out what might be relevant.

"Heartstopper" is quite a lengthy novel despite the fact that not a lot really happens. There are long chapters from the point of view of the killer, but these do not illuminate exactly why the killer is doing what they are doing. Further to this, I'm not sure if the identity of the killer was supposed to be a secret or not. We learn about the aunt of one character being dead, and then one of the killer's chapters happens to mention a dead aunt. It results in a novel where you know all along who the killer is, but never know exactly why they are doing what they are doing.

Where the novel does succeed is in exploring the generation gap between adults and teenagers. The adults fail to understand what motivates their kids, and vice versa. It also honestly explores the emotions felt by Sandy about the disintegration of her marriage. While this genre tends towards the female protagonist who can take control of her life and not put up with any crap, Sandy is presented as an otherwise intelligent woman who simply cannot come to grips with the fact her husband no longer finds her "worthy" of love. She does get her moment of triumph, but she at least comes across as a believable, relatable character.

However, I'm supposed to be reading a thriller here. I was not thrilled. My heart did not stop. My eyelids drooped a bit, but that's about it. Strong character development is all well and good when you have an involving storyline to back you up. That is not the case here. There is barely a story to be found. Somebody is kidnapping girls and women and killing them. Their motive is never made properly clear. I had to slog through more than 500 pages to a conclusion that I already saw coming. I need these so-called thrillers to stop wasting my time.

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