Sunday, April 24, 2016

Conflicted Rant of a Review: Dead Wrong

Dead Wrong

by Mariah Stewart
Book 1 of Dead series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  1.5 Stars


Three devious prisoners vow murderous revenge. Now the first is free.

It was inescapably chilling, as if the murderer was methodically working his way down a page torn from the phone book. The three victims brutally killed in their own homes had one thing in common: they were all listed as M. Douglas. The fact that Mara Douglas is next on the list has her jumping at shadows, until FBI agent Aidan Shields shows up to make sure she doesn't become the fourth victim.

Aidan has been out of commission since an undercover operation went bad more than a year ago. Back on the job, his razor-sharp instincts are returning. But it will take all of Aidan's wits to stay one step ahead of the elusive killer who has engaged him in a deadly game--a game in which Mara's life is the prize. A game only one can win ...

You know when you really, really look forward to reading a book because you’re on a big romantic suspense kick and the blurb just catches all the right aspects of some intriguing murder mystery and the premise sounds quite promising? And then you finally get your hands on said book… and it just doesn’t hit the spot… like… at all?

The blurb summary on the back of the book is probably written better than the book itself. It sounded intense, dark, exciting, to the point… but the actual story just feels extremely flat.

There are too many side anecdotes and side stories and side descriptions to sift through. There is a lot of meandering; there is no straight to the point. Why do I need a five page history of each cameo character? Don’t they all get their own books later on in the series? We can cover their conflicts and thoughts in the next book. Why do I need to know the backstory (in a full page layout, nonetheless) of a background character who appears for all of two seconds (or rather, the full minute it takes me to read about him and then forget he existed)? There were too many plot-points going on; I had trouble trying to figure out what was significant to the story and what wasn’t?

And the atmosphere of the book was hard to grasp. Is it a dark mood? Serious? Trendy? Contemporary? There was no sense of urgency; everyone seemed to be taking their sweet time getting around the investigation. Sometimes the story felt awkwardly comic and I’m not even sure why.

I get the feeling that there is a lot of groundwork being laid out for the world being built around the rest of the Dead series (as well as subsequent series to follow in this world). In a nutshell, there is too much going on. This book could have been cut down by a good third. But in that event, I guess there wouldn’t be much story to tell.

The book itself isn’t balanced. There is no mystery--we already know who’s doing the killing, why he’s doing the killing, and who his intended targets are. In essence, we then get no suspense, no surprise twists. Plot points are very conveniently brought about in the story progression, so deliberately and so neatly that I could predict exactly what was going to happen next. And then there was barely any romance to speak of, but at the same time, I feel like we spend too much time on our characters' every thought, every dialogue, and every action.

There is too much telling.

The narration jumped back and forth from character to character, from one situation to another, and the transitioning between was extremely choppy.

The characters could have been great. But they were extremely chatty and felt like they needed to explain everything that was going on with every situation, repeatedly. In the end, they just ended up all being kind of flat; impossible to relate with and kind of unnatural.

For the first half of the book, however, for some reason, I couldn’t stop reading. The writing isn’t bad… there is just… too much of everything. The premise is intriguing, the story was promising, and there still felt like there was potential for the book to make some improvements along the way. But the characters were boring and lifeless while the story progression was hard to follow. I have no problem with the characters as individuals, though; they were all good people and had potential for story-making. But character-driven, this book is not. Once I realized that the mystery aspect was shot in the head, I think I lost my interest.

The investigation process, the few tidbits of facts being laid about (FBI terms, detective jargon, an FBI profiler not carrying a gun with her, a methodical and believed to be intelligent serial killer missing his target three times…) felt questionable and almost laughable. It was hard for me to believe that such a conscientious serial killer wouldn’t have done his homework in advance before taking his victims… especially after making his first mistake and killing the wrong woman. It was also hard for me to believe that so much information about the serial killings ended up leaking so easily to the public, therefore informing our resident serial killer of exactly who his correct target was supposed to be.

And then on top of that, she wasn’t even kept protected properly. It was extremely hard for me to believe that, given the fact that Mara Douglas ended up as the known target of the serial killer, she wasn't kept in a safe, well-guarded location. Instead, we are okay with her traveling out of the city, to a secluded, wooded, mountainous area, with only the protection of a recently re-instated FBI agent who is still recovering from physical ailments he sustained from a previous mission gone wrong? I have nothing against Aiden Shields. He's a good man. But if keeping Mara safe is the top priority, how is he supposed to do so if he can't even keep up with her at a brisk walk? How is he going to just not bother trying to shoot a gun once again to test his non-dominant hand (since his dominant hand can't shoot anymore) and just leave it all to "I hope I don't accidentally hit her with a bullet since I haven't shot a round in a long time"?

No offense to Aiden. I'm sure he was a great agent during his prime, and his backstory is full of angst and such. But Mara would have been safer staying in the city with the local cops... maybe. They don't seem all that competent either, honestly.

As the ending of the story neared, everyone just kept conveniently being maneuvered in specific directions (not mattering that they were making poorly, non-thought out decisions left and right) so that a highly convenient, predictable outcome would happen.

It was frustrating to say the least.

While I was managing to breeze through the first half of the book, for some unknown reason, the last half was a bit of a struggle since I really just wanted it to be over with. Because, I already knew what the outcome was going to be.

I don’t know. I’ll give the rest of the series a chance since I already checked out all four books from the library. I’m hoping that maybe after all of this world building (in a romantic suspense, no less) has been established in this first book, the rest of the series will flow a little bit better. Because the premises for each book following in this series as well as the books in other series written by Mariah Stewart really caught my attention big time and I’ve been interested since I read the summaries.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in June 2014.

A First Impression (originally posted on June 9, 2014)

This book is very... wordy. Hopefully it gets less wordy? And stops pointing out obvious points that any reader can deduce? Maybe? Please?

At least we get straight to the point.  I rather prefer getting straight into the heart of the crime thriller rather than filling 50% of the story with contemporary "getting to know your characters" b.s. before anything starts happening when it comes to a murder mystery anyway.

So I'm content to keep reading and hope things turn out more exciting soon.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in June 2014.

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