This book started out slowly, building swiftly as the murder investigation ensued. It felt right just before Springer went over the edge, being too obvious and “shocker” about the phrase “serial killer.” My daughter talks about the “creepiness levels” of such prose, citing that in some cases like this, you end up thinking the author regularly eats paint chips or something.
Anyway, Springer after this momentary lapse went right back into the heart of the matter: the murder investigation by detective sergeant Daniel O’Dell of a female serial killer victim. This story is being told in a straightforward manner, a little “tell not show” for my tastes. I felt like the beginning commenced well, then proceeded to drag through the details a bit – not unlike the feeling one gets from dragging on a rain soaked cigarette butt, but definitely lending itself to continuing to read the book.
There were the occasional grammatical problems, such as “Professor Weaver confidently sauntered up to the victim and looked at her remains over for a moment…” which detracted in small ways from reading. In general, this book was written in the modern vernacular, shocking essence and all, with limited use of commas.
This lends itself to its own style of dramatic writing, the Hemingway brand of it anyway, although I felt sometimes that Springer was trying to over impress his readers with too many petty and authoritative sounding details. But I didn’t feel swamped in any way, and it was fairly Spartan in the truest true crime dramatic sense which plows you right into the meaty stuff and doesn’t leave you starving for action, drama or suspense.
But I didn’t feel like the background scenery was being described at all, to the detriment of the story, while the victim’s personal body details were being assailed instead. It would have helped to know more about what the crime scene was like where her body was found…more details like in a movie, and less shock value.
Within this book: “The scene was in a secluded area behind a large dilapidated pawnshop just west of the city of Detroit. It was an area that was frequented by the homeless boozers and no-account crack heads. It was not close enough to the downtown metro area to be under the constant protection of roving police patrols, nor was it within earshot of the residential section for anyone to hear a victim screaming.”
Aside from the need for one phrase to be “nor was it within enough earshot of the residential section…” – this paragraph, close to the story’s beginning, wrapped up the scenery needs, but I did feel a little starved for further detail when the author began going on in greater detail about items such as “ripped out nipples.” Call it my own problems, but although true crime novel fashion dictates this kind of perverse awareness for the sake of an action oriented readership, I get tired of continuous references to victim body parts used to “grab” interest, instead of more played out storytelling.
I guess I miss the days of Agatha Christie, and of course this is supposed to be the more hardboiled, Mickey Spillane style of true crime thriller. But this type of writing makes me yearn for more gracious days, when prose involved describing far more than what Jack the Ripper got into. My bad, my bad, but please spare me some of the gruesome details and tell the story with characterization, which I found also to be missing from this book.
However, I may be being too “me” here. There was the line, “Just be gentle with her head.” This statement of purpose from the medical examiner looked clinical at most, but it intimates a little later in the game some meager identification with the victim as something other than a series of body parts, which I appreciated. And the book was slowly building at that point, which brought us into deeper appreciation of the characterizations, as they later occurred.
I saw this as a kind of complex foreshadowing, and the dialogue at this point began to relay the characters’ strengths and weaknesses, lending needed plot aspects to the overall story. I think in terms of television’s “CSI” crime drama awareness, the author had a nice, tight beginning to the story, albeit my weakness for more structural detail. It was fluid, flowing rapidly but with some jerks and starts into the first chapter, and it made for a rank but somewhat well paced beginning.
I would have rather lines like “It was larger than the barn with a rolling white cap that had a destructive look to it as it turned forward and began to engulf everything in its path…” read in a “show not tell” fashion, such as: “Gushering, cold hearted wiping out the placid green countryside, engulfing everything in its path, the tremendous rolling white death entered with a whoosh! Speeding right at me with a fearsome crescendo, it made me stand transfixed, gasping for breath as death mounted with hurricane velocity. I had no time to scream as the concrete wall of water slapped me down cold, not even feeling my head grinding into the ground as I blacked out.”
I got no “show not tell” sense of excitement from this book. Basically, I found the writing to be descriptive properly when it came to telling us about only the necessary details, but bereft and barren when it came to color, light and “fun” stuff such as the “you are there” feeling that really great true crime novels and books regarding similar subjects normally entail.
Also, I found the writing itself to be choppy at best, miserably lacking in continuity at worst. We went from a true crime setting to demonology too quickly, and I felt like I was being left behind too soon. Later on in the book, as we entered more deeply in, some of my desire for actual “show” turned up in the story, with lines like, ” It was a one-time visit to the head shrinker to dig out the hidden quintessential monkey on the back,” in Chapter Five.
I began to feel less imagery deprived, although the writing was still Spartan and spare, lending an odd atmosphere of detachment to the story telling. I read, but I just didn’t feel involved as the story jumped around almost randomly from scene to scene. I kept waiting for all the odd loose ends to be wrapped up, and didn’t feel like this was happening for me anywhere.
I wondered if the previous reference to a “demon puddle” – which showed varying scenarios to one demon so that he could admire other’s sufferings – were related to the choppy scenarios of the writing. I also thought Dr. High’s problem, dermatological hypersensitivity, which made him unable to fully relate to how he was flooded with perceptual industry, was some sort of keystone to the book; between the demon and the doctor, perhaps there was a reason to keep switching scenarios in such an abrupt and random manner.
The book’s quirky nature, though, and the mild changes between descriptive prose where the author had me more compelled and the simpler “tell not show” nature kept me going enough to want to finish the book, finding out how all the loose threads came together eventually. Some erratic capitalizations such as “Gold” for “gold” left me puzzled, unaware of their deeper (if any) meaning. I felt like the book could have used a thorough proof reading.
Basically, I never actually felt the sense of suspense Springer was obviously trying to build with references to “religious programming” in that there was nothing there in the book to build suspense with, nothing I could see that made me feel uptight, worried, or anxious about any of the characters. He didn’t dwell on a central character long enough for me to grow any real feelings about the characters or to at least become more curious as to what their circumstances held.
I also never felt the desired sense of “suspension of disbelief,” or the feeling the events in the book were true to life and might mean something to people. It just wasn’t there, and I spent forever groping for it, wondering why I felt so emotionally “flat” and unable to really care about anything. Probably it didn’t help to have such an abrupt “jamming” of many characters, with an obvious thread of anti religion that didn’t fulfill the premise of being scary, wondrous or otherwise anything but pedantically expressed with lots of details, but no spice, mustard or even a definite sense of plots intertwining with substance.
I felt relieved somewhat when the events did coalesce enough to appreciate them as more than factual statements without any purpose. However, I found some extraneous use of the “f” word scattered intermittently throughout as not enamoring me to the plot line or characters any. Such attempts to shock shouldn’t come as unrelated to the plot lines or as jarring as they came here, with no particular reason given for their use. I never felt, for example, that we really got to know Dr. High, an obvious principle character, in any real depth. There were shocker revelations of circumstances, but they all seemed petty and not particularly useful to the main plot, which was still obscure one quarter of the way through this book.
At least finally the loose ends of before were wrapped up, but there were no characters to relate to or feel for but Dr. High, the one with the odd disability; it seemed treated for “freak show” purposes, instead of trying to get us to care about the doctor or what would happen to him under the auspices of a growing Satanic serial murderer reference. Another major character, Tristan, seemed to just suddenly show up, with no particular essence to him or feeling that we should care about him in any way.
By Chapter Six, things again moved away from main characters and further more or less confusing plot angles and characters were brought in, compounding the growing difficulty regarding concern for the people in this book. I felt like I was watching a rerun of “Friends,” the popular TV show, where they kept switching around to the various cast members without any of them growing on me as people.
In “Friends,” it worked because they made many close relationships happen between the characters; I felt no such relationships here, although I was at least still curious to see what events would transpire. There was some attempt at partial construction of several interwoven plot lines, as we got to the assassin and Dr. High, and returned to police sergeant O’Dell; but it all felt too “loosey goosey” for my tastes. I yearned for a central character, which wasn’t happening, thus the “Friends” analogy. Who really mattered in this book?
Maybe the police sergeant, Daniel O’Dell. But just as I was about to begin caring about him, the identity of the killer was brought up, as known by O’Dell. This detracted from any getting to know O’Dell as a person, or warming toward him, as he was keeping us from the killer’s identity. But at last a reason to read to the end of the book had been brought forth, so this had become a good turn of events. I also liked the timely nature of the current economic crisis appearing in the story, as O’Dell’s criminal forensics investigation had to suffer from it.
Naming Dr. High “Ray,” like the author’s own name, didn’t work though as a way to get me to care about him; rather, it detracted from the book’s reality. I’ve got to admit however that the sensory deprivation tank being used to solve a murder case is at least something I’ve never seen before, and this book held many new plot devices that kept me guessing, feeling like I wanted to learn this new stuff and needed to know how it would apply. I just wanted to care about the involved parties more, but it helped tremendously that the newer details were fresh and inviting, giving the overall plot, which was beginning to come more clear to me, a freshness and vibrancy that I could truly appreciate.
By Chapter Ten, I was beginning to get “into” this story, with leading lines like “If you were to ask the murderer to rationalize what he or she did, they would come up with a perfectly rash and reasonable explanation. If you were able to talk to the cat and ask why it terrorizes its prey prior to decapitating and saving the head as a trophy, perhaps the cat would state that it’s all in the name of training.” I liked these little “quirks” of thought and new ideas in this book, which is its principle measure of worth, with no really splendid characterizations or people to really care about – and the many wandering away trips it took, without really letting us know why Mexico, the Catholic Church, or other standard “lean on” plot devices were so essential to the overall plot.
Then the murderer seemed to be revealed too soon; I was hoping it would be the “treat” at the end of the book. Now it seemed the one character we could care about, sans how horrible he was as a person, was the killer, due to his painful and abusive upbringing. I wasn’t sure it was planned that yes, the only being we could feel about in this book was the serial murderer; that’s what I meant about this book being too “Jack sympathetic” and “into” the usual device of serial murder. But at least we finally had someone we could feel something real about, at any rate.
Frank, the killer, began to remind me of the main character in “Family Guy” in his essence of being “smelly,” having “enormous rolls of fat,” and being a hard workin’ dude, lingering over his sandwich at lunchtime and seeming related to the “common man.” Having feelings over someone who “liked women because they scream louder” was discomfiting in a somewhat new way for me.
At least the odd “factoids” scattered throughout this book were presented straightforward; but the meaning behind the character of the murderer was a little lost on me. The Ripper referencing was a little obvious, with the new angle of Frank’s having filed down teeth to rend his victims dead being at least mildly entertaining.
I also began to like the relationship between Dan and Ray, who had turned out to be the quintessential characters of the book, but didn’t feel like Dan’s “good guy” aspects were gone into as heavily as Frank’s “normal, but bad guy” aspects had been researched. I still felt more about Frank than Dan, which didn’t sit well with me. That may have been part of the idea, but I didn’t like it. I was grateful for the scenes where the immersion tank was used to look into the mind of the murderer were outlined in a more spare fashion, not dwelling any too “lovingly” on the details of how the mostly female victims were ripped into shreds.
And once Ray began to see the details of Frank’s crimes and see into the mind of the killer, I finally got worried about what would happen to him later. The stark drama of the ripping and tearing was shown in a fairly straightforward and not as ungainly as before way, which left me wanting to know what was going to happen and made me want to keep on reading and finding out.
The book, admittedly suspenseful in a dawning, growing way, and with some new details in the telling, I’ll leave you to finish yourselves. Suffice it to say, it started slowly on me, filling me with grave doubt as to the author’s story telling capabilities. But it gradually won me over with its freshness of approach, its interwoven character and story details, and its myriad technical details about subjects that most readers would like to learn about.
I don’t want to reveal more about the book, as I’d like you to read it, though you may think I didn’t like it. I actually found it to be a turn pager read, albeit odd and abstruse, having ideas I’d never before seen presented together. Suffice it to say I’d recommend it, although I would also recommend some extensive editing and some reworking of the “sympathy quotient” for the characters. And sadly enough for our modern times, it may actually fit in for its lack of sympathy.
I’m just a little scathing in my review due to the lack of feeling for the main characters, which gradually resolves somewhat. I get tired of the “Jack is the greatest guy” technique which some modern true crime and other similar novelists tend to invoke by getting all “hairy” about the details. Also, Frank turning out to be demon possessed, even with it tightening up all the other obscure plotlines loose ends, didn’t feel right with me in that it excused him, as the book did many times, for all his murderous actions. His mom was responsible; the Church was responsible, etc.
I’d like to see a book which placed more blame on the killer himself, instead of a “tell not show” book which excuses his every action in the name of a new plot twist or a series of factual events which scarcely relate to the overall plot structure. I on the other hand have to admit that I liked this book. It kept me guessing, even though it was frequently poorly written, and it kept the action going at a relaxed but even pace, flowing consistently throughout this hard to classify fiction novel: true crime, ripper fantasia, science fiction…quite a lot of genres were expressed.
The name of the book, “Solon,” becomes apparent about halfway through, when the demon which possesses Frank becomes known to be his father, Solon. At last this treat of info was presented to us, only about halfway through, and many more similarly odd treats became known in later portions of Springer’s new book – frankly satanic ones that more or less qualify this book as “dark fantasy.”
It wraps up its spiritual essence while not being nicely spiritual itself, and those who shrink away at satanic referencing might not enjoy this book, which is more or less adult but not sophisticated enough for coffee table status.
I must leave you to find out what eventually transpires in this tale of peculiarities on your own, as I don’t want to spoil this interesting read’s outcome. I recommend this book, although I would like to see it editing for style and some content issues, with some restructuring of the more “purple prose” sections of it to get the reader more interested – and yes, some better characterizations. The ending is okay, leaving the reader hanging and wanting some more, but I felt like the book “leaned” too heavily on “shocker” anti religion stuff. I would, however, be glad to read the sequel of this oddly written and strangely enthralling book, and suggest you get yourself a copy of “Solon” and do the same.
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