Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Catch Your Death" by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

Sixteen years ago, Kate Maddox was a volunteer at the Cold Research Unit, where she met and fell in love with Dr. Stephen Wilson. However, her stay ended when the research centre burnt down and Stephen was killed. She has virtually no memories of her time at the centre, and eventually went to live and study in America.

In the present day, Kate has fled to England with her son Jack to escape from her controlling, overbearing exhusband, Vernon. Unexpectedly, she runs into Stephen's twin brother Paul Wilson, who has a letter from his dead brother that he doesn't understand. Suspecting that something sinister must have happened all that time ago, they team up to uncover the truth.

Unfortunately, Dr. Clive Gaunt from the centre, and his cronies, have kept their eye on Kate all this time and aren't happy she's back in England. He immediately sends out his psychopathic lackey John Sampson to do away with Kate. That proves more difficult than expected because John has lustful feelings towards Kate. Complicating matters is Vernon, who has tracked Kate down to England to get his son back.

I'm not sure what it was about "Catch Your Death" that just didn't work. Maybe it was the badly drawn characters. Maybe it was the simplistic, unexciting conspiracy being uncovered. It certainly moved along at a good pace, but I never found the proceedings particularly enthralling. I was able to put it down for several days at a time and to be truly honest, had to force myself to finish it.

The book's biggest liability is the main character of Kate, unfortunately. She's one of the more stroppy protagonists I've come across in thriller fiction. The authors frequently use the word "wail" to describe the state of her dialogue. She worries constantly about being a bad mother - and for good reason, really, because she is. She goes on and on about keeping Jack away from Vernon, but the book never adequately explains why he's such a monster father. Sure he's an arrogant, unlikeable hothead who controlled Kate's life and cheated on her during their marriage, but he does seem to love his son. Running off to England with him because she's sure she won't gain custody is akin to kidnapping and very selfish. Then, despite having all manner of dangerous people on her tail, dumps Jack in the care of her sister, as she feels he would get bored traipsing around the country with her. Plus, she wants to jump Paul's bones.

Not that taking Jack out of the story is such a bad thing. He's an annoying brat. All the characters remark about what a well-behaved boy he is, but they must have been reading another book. All he did was whinge and be a pain in the ass. I know that's probably what young kids are like in real life, but I sure didn't enjoy reading about his snotty behaviour.

I enjoy a good "deadly virus" conspiracy thriller, but this one fails to deliver. There's no decent motive behind Dr. Gaunt's actions, and the narrative is mostly a routine chase story until a deadly virus is introduced in the later part of the book, and the unexciting truth about Kate's stay at the Cold Research Centre is revealed. I thought to myself: "That's it?" The plot for "Catch Your Death" didn't reach the feverish pitch it needed, and the characters left me cold.

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