Saturday, March 10, 2012

"The Survivor" by Sean Slater

Detective Jacob Striker has been called to his daughter Courtney's high school because she has skipped class. He rocks up along with partner Felicia Santos and before they know it, the school becomes the site of chaos as a school shooting erupts. Three guys in hockey masks are gunning down students left, right and centre. Striker manages to take two down, but one - wearing a red mask - manages to escape.

As the investigation into the identities of the two dead killers gets underway, Striker also learns that they were targeting specific students. As he and Felicia try to find links between the students, their enquiries eventually lead them into the underworld of Asian gangs. It becomes a race against time when they realise there is still one more student target out there. Complicating matters is Courtney, who has a frayed relationship with her father, and whose bratty actions will undoubtedly bring her into the line of fire.

If you've never read a crime/action thriller set in Canada, now's your opportunity! However, there isn't anything you'll find amongst these pages to make it stand out amongst a crime thriller set in any other country. "The Survivor" is over 500 pages long and could have done with a little trimming. After a while it simply got dull as Jacob and Felicia went to another location to interview another suspect. Surely the author could have found a way to shorten their eventual arrival at the solution. Events eventually got very repetitious.

Other elements annoyed me. What was the purpose of The Man With The Bamboo Spine again? He showed up, didn't do much and was removed from the narrative in a real who-cares fashion. Why were the names of the shooters kept a mystery? The remaining shooter is referred to as Red Mask throughout the novel. The reader knowing his name would have had no impact on anything nor spoilt anything. Attempts to try and humanise him really bothered me too. He shot and murdered twenty-two kids when only four were targets. Overkill much? Sorry, but I really don't give two shits about the internal torment of an asshole who can gun down twenty-two kids. Shooting up a school just to take out four kids? What a stupid plan. It didn't conceal the links between them any less than had they been murdered separately.

Character-wise, this was a bit of a bust. Courtney was a brat. Yes, her mother died two years ago but it didn't make me warm to her. Dialogue between her and her friend Raine was quite cringe-worthy. The author was trying to hard to capture teen-girl speak. Jacob Striker himself is an arrogant asshole. Yes, his boss Inspector Laroche is a douchebag, but Jacob seems to think the rules don't apply to him and his behaviour towards his boss is nothing less than antagonistic. His conversations with Felicia range from flirty to snappy - he's the man, he's the boss, basically. When he goes into the hospital room of an interviewee that's been shot, he introduces himself as "I'm Detective Jacob Striker from the Vancouver Police Department. I'm the cop that saved you". Wow. Is he for real? It's hard spending 500 pages with a character who thinks the sun shines out his own ass. And as stated previously, I didn't care much about the atrocities suffered by Red Mask as a child. He's a cold-blooded assassin who murders children!

What could have been an exciting thriller turns into just another police procedural with - once again - too much focus on the procedural. A look at Amazon revealed that the author is actually a Vancouver detective himself, so I know it's at least fairly accurate. So what? I wanted it to be exciting and suspenseful as well. It wasn't.

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