Friday, February 1, 2013

"Kiss Of Evil" by Richard Montanari

Det. Jack Paris is still aggrieved by the murder of his colleague and friend, Michael Ryan, two years earlier. His killer - Sarah Weiss - was acquitted, but is now dead from an apparent suicide, which Paris admittedly isn't too upset by. Ryan is viewed as a dirty cop, something which Paris refuses to believe. However, he has got plenty of his plate, with a series of vicious murders being committed. The victims are unconnected, except for carvings on their bodies that are linked to a religion known as Santeria.

Meanwhile, a conwoman known only as Mary is carrying out a series of scams in order to raise enough money to regain custody of her daughter. For some reason, she has caught the eye of the murderer, who wants her to be a part of his plans. As for Jack, he begins to realise that the murders are possibly linked to the death of Michael Ryan, and that he himself is squarely in the killer's sights.

It was very, very difficult to get into Kiss Of Evil. It is written in a present-tense format, and flips continually between first person (for the killer) and third person (for Mary and Jack). I found it too easy to put the book down and go do something else. There is the germ of a good thriller here, but it gets lost amongst the impenetrable writing style and the author's too-obvious attempts to obfuscate what would otherwise be an exciting, straight-forward revenge tale.

An intriguing backstory is set up regarding the killer, detailing events of his life from when he was a young child, explaining how he has gotten to where he is. Unfortunately, that's the only element that really stands out here. The rest - for me, anyway - was a bit of a jumbled mess. I actually hopped on line to find other reviews to see if they could explain some of the unanswered questions that I felt were left dangling by the book's end. Some people seemed satisfied that it was all nicely wrapped up by the end. Maybe they read a different book?


What was the point of having reporter Mercedes Cruz in the story? She seems to only be around so that the author can throw a tiny red herring into the proceedings regarding her brother the photographer (it turns out it was the killer pretending to be her brother).

Why do Jack and Carla go to the swinger's party? It's established as some sort of major lead, and then never really followed through with. 


I also was left unsure as to why the killer blackmailed Mary into helping him. Why her? And the killer's plan seemed to be all over the place. First he appears to be framing Jack for the crimes, but a mere couple of chapters later we're jumping straight into the finale where he apparently wants Jack dead. What exactly did he have planned? Then we have the ridiculous amount of alternate identities for our killer. One is mentioned in the spoilers. However, we also get a multitude of chapters from the killer's viewpoint. In some chapters he goes by a particular name. In other chapters he goes by another name. There doesn't seem to be any effort from the author for us to assume they might be different people, but neither does he confirm it. It becomes very frustrating, adding to the difficulty of trying to follow the story. This difficulty also extends to keeping track of where our killer is. Sometimes it seems like he's in three different places at once.

I like my thrillers to hang together from chapter to chapter. I like a clear idea of who the killer is, who they're after and why they're doing it. Kiss Of Evil has its moments, but a hard-to-follow writing style and a frustratingly obtuse approach to the storyline keep it from being the exciting thriller it should be.

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