Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Playing the Game by Simon Gould

Nutshell:  A crazed serial killer stalks pretty young college students in Los Angeles while an LAPD detective tries to catch him before he kills again.  A fast-paced thriller exhibiting nothing you haven't seen before.  Two stars.

Review:  So let's see...have we got the hard-boiled cop and his partner?  Check.  A crazed serial killer with a silly nickname toying with the cops?  Check.  A lawmaker belonging to a powerful, shadowy group that invisibly pulls the strings while staying above the law?  Check.  Yep, we've got all the cliches we need!

What should have been an entertaining romp wore out its welcome early, due to the many, many echoes of stories you've undoubtedly heard before.  It doesn't help things that Gould explicitly has a character refer to the main character (Detective Patton) and his partner as Riggs and Murtaugh, from the Lethal Weapon films--although it certainly does illuminate the inspiration for Gould.  We're also treated to dialogue à la Tarentino (two guys arguing over the merits of joining the rebels or the Empire in Star Wars), and so on and so on.  Of course, we're all inspired by others, but when there's so little originality displayed, it does get tiresome.

Gould's style is often clunky, as displayed in this dialogue--remember, this is something a character is actually saying aloud:  "We needed to ensure that we knew exactly where whoever was carrying out these actions was going to be once the actions were completed.  We can't run the risk of employing anyone to carry out these actions then being picked up somewhere down the line on an unrelated charge and having us as leverage to plead out a lesser charge."

It also doesn't help that the book is full of distractions.  These range from the many uses of British terms--"boot" instead of "trunk", "lift" instead of "elevator", "post" instead of mail, "takeaway" instead of (presumably) "takeout"; none of these would be used by the American characters in the book.  It makes me wonder why he didn't just place the action in London (oh yeah, they never filmed a Lethal Weapon movie there).  The apparent lack of copy editing was also maddening, repeatedly kicking me out of the story, although I did enjoy the line Gould wrote about Obi-wan Kenobi wandering around the "dessert".

I confess, I was tempted to stop reading after the part in which a cop knocks a door off its hinges with one kick, since we had evidently passed into fantasy land there.  However--and this is a big however--I kept reading.  Gould has some severe issues but he clearly gets some things right--the pacing is terrific and although the hooks are tired, they are often effective; I found myself wanting to read more in spite of myself.  If he were to use fresher ingredients, he'd come up with a pretty tasty concoction.  I'll be watching for his next offering.

The formatting of the text was fine, but the beginning was rough.  While I normally enjoy a story that throws you right into the action, I guess for Gould that means skipping the cover and title page and literally beginning with the first chapter.  I read this on Kindle for PC for 99 cents.

Rating:  A solid two stars.  Die-hard fans of the genre will probably enjoy it, but for fair-weather fans, it might not be worth the effort.  Keep watching Gould, however.

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