Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Watch Me Die" by Erica Spindler

Mira Gallier has a successful career as a restoration artist for windows. Her latest job is restoring a beautiful church window of Mary Magdalene. Despite professional security, Mira is still a complete wreck after the death of her husband Jeff during Hurricane Katrina six years ago.

When a church is vandalised and the priest killed, her connection to the restored windows of that church draws the attention of detective Spencer Malone. He's also coping with breaking in new partner Karin Bayle, who has just come back to work after an emotional breakdown.

Mira is conflicted by her feelings for Connor Scott, Jeff's best friend, who took off to serve in the army shortly before Jeff's death. She's also being haunted by Jeff's scent in her home, and what appears to be phone calls from him.

Other victims begin to pop up. They all have a connection to Mira. This, combined with the phone calls, have Mira believing she might be going crazy. Spencer and Karin argue over whether Mira or Connor are the killer, or working together. As for Mira, she also suspects all the people in her life as having something to do with her current predicament.

I think Erica Spindler's work is beginning to regress. For a while there, she was delivering well-plotted thrillers with strong female protagonists. With "Watch Me Die" we have another female protagonist, much like the one in "Blood Vines", who spends much of her time dramatically throwing herself into the arms of the nearest man to rest her head against his solid chest because it's ALL JUST TOO MUCH.

Everything in Mira's life is ALL JUST TOO MUCH. It's been six years since her husband's death and she still can't let go. After a while you just get tired of hearing about it. I imagine in real life there are plenty of people who can't move on from a dramatic, traumatising period in their life, but it sure ain't fun to read about. Mira is a really exasperating character. She seems to have no common sense. Despite having consultations with psychologist Adele Jasper for several years, she only just decides Adele is untrustworthy because Adele was recommended to her by a casual acquaintance of her mother-in-law at Jeff's funeral. She didn't think to check Adele's qualifications back then???

Similarly, she begins to think Jeff might still be alive because of the phone calls. You see, his body was recovered, but could never be properly identified because of all the damage to it. It never occurs to her that if Jeff were still alive he would have probably made contact with her in the space of SIX YEARS. But the combination of phone calls, being a murder suspect, and having Connor back in her life and revealing startling truths about what Jeff was really like is ALL JUST TOO MUCH.

The book desperately tries to paint Connor as a prime suspect, but Spindler has reverted too fully into the typical romantic suspense template for it to truly succeed. After that, there's only one person who it could really be....

"Watch Me Die" is Spindler's weakest effort in recent memory. An insipid heroine sinks it, and an obvious, predictable plot torpedoes it.

And what was with Mira's assistant Deni calling her up and saying she'd seen Adele driving around with a passenger who looked just like Jeff? Who was her mysterious lover Bill Smith? These plot strands are raised and never explained. Lazy.

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