Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Blood Lies" by Daniel Kalla

Ben Dafoe is an emergency room doctor who winds up the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-fiance and her drug dealer, thanks to blood on the wall at the crime scene, which matches his DNA. Ben knows he was never there, but the only other possibility is his twin brother Aaron. However, Aaron went missing two years ago, presumed dead.

Believing that Aaron must have faked his death, and his somehow involved in the murders, Ben goes on the run in an effort to clear his name. Clues suggest that Aaron was last seen in Vancouver, so that's where Ben heads. He must stay one step ahead of the police while trying to find out who has a motive to not only murder his ex-fiance, but to frame him for it as well.

I got "Blood Lies" from a discount bin at a bookstore and now I'm glad I did. It's quite surprising how satisfying the "cheap" thrillers are compared to the large-format crime paperbacks that get major releases in the bookstores. "Chillwater Cove" comes to mind. This is a solid, old-fashioned fugitive-on-the-run, trying-to-clear-his-name thriller. Plenty of red herrings are thrown out there, lots of potential motives for murder and some dollops of intrigue. Furthermore, while the characterisations are nothing great literature are made of, I really liked a couple of the characters. Ben himself is a selfless, intelligent fellow and I was firmly in his corner from the get-go. His developing relationship with Dr. Jozef Janacek, whose clinic he starts working at in Vancouver, is sincere and engaging and grounds the story even more than Ben's tentative romance with Dr. Alex Lindquist, who is in a troubled marriage. Events played out like a movie in my mind while I read the book, which demonstrates Kalla's ease in creating scenarios without an excess of description. More than a few authors could learn from him!

On the downside, some plot contrivances detracted from the story. Alex conveniently had a brother who looks just like Ben so he could borrow his identity (and which makes their attraction to one another a little creepy). There is an extreme over-reliance on flashbacks. Seriously, there's nearly one every chapter. It was distracting and more than a little amateurish. And the ending was just a little too Murder She Wrote-ish for me. You know, where so-and-so says they knew something all along but wasn't sure and never bothered to tell a soul about it?

These are all minor quibbles. I read "Blood Lies" in one sitting and really enjoyed it. Likeable characters, plenty of intrigue, punchy pacing = much to enjoy.

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