Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: Split Second

Books are a huge passion of mine. They are an inspiration, a joy, and just plain wonderful. Since they are so important to my life, and to many others who have a passion for writing (and yes, reading), I thought it would be a great thing to give a try reading, reviewing, and critiquing books.

I have found that it is much harder than it looks. Those who are able to tantalize another reader to trying out a book or warn others of flaws without giving much away is difficult. Much like any form of writing, it takes time and a lot of practice and editing to get it right. But, hopefully this first try will provoke some of you to pick up the following series!

Split Second
An FBI Thriller
By Catherine Coulter

The Cove
Now, this might be an awkward place to start. This is actually a book  part of a series, the "FBI Thriller" series. However, Ms. Coulter's books can be read out of order. While many of the crimes and characters and plots can connect to each other and/or reappear, each book is very stand alone.You can start from the middle of the series and be able to understand what is going on with total ease. However, there is a chance that you might be mildly spoiled of previous books if you do so.

I'll start with the series over all.

Each book is following a very serious case. Typically a killer/killers or missing persons. The crimes can be incredibly dark, twisted, and powerful. These are more adult books and deal with crimes that some might not enjoy reading about. The cover to your left is the very first of the series and deals with a gruesome murder, stalking, betrayal, and paranoia. These dark themes are in most every book and though the details aren't typically overwhelming, these are not light-hearted stories. 

The series reminds me a lot of Criminal Minds. It typically focuses around a small group of FBI agents who will be sent across the nation to solve heinous or government-threat crimes. After the first book, it usually follows Detective Dillion Savich, an agent that specializes with computers and computer databases. He has even created a specialized computer system that helps in solving cases (MAX). He is the lead of the team and is highly respected and very intelligent. The team will always have Lacey Sherlock (her actual former-last name, SPOILER: She and Dillion are married right after Book 2: The Maze) and a few members that might weave in and out of the series.

There are usually at least two mysteries per book. Sometimes they are separate and sometimes they are connected together. And sometimes you're not even aware there is a second one till later in the story. But they usually meet up and the resolution can be a wild and spectacular twist or a soft, tense release. But the different mysteries don't take away or buttheads with each other.

Within each book there is always romance. In most all, it is between someone who has become involved in the case (as a victim, by chance, etc.) and another agent (one who, mentioned before, weaves in and out of the series). This most always has sexual tension and, yes, eventually sex. However, the main focus remains on the story and the crime. These moments do not typically take away from the plot nor the characters. The relationships are built up on and, while a bit fast, follow well with the story and how each character is set up. The relationships also have a lot of mystery and tension to it as well and intertwine great with the dark-plot of the story.

But the story does not just have intense drama and sexual tension. Sarcastic and witty humor are blended in on top of the adult romance and the dark crime. Ms. Coulter brings in some other genres and balance them nicely to make what is happening feel realistic. It does not all follow one genre and one genre alone. Because the content can be very heavy, adding in humor or some sweet flirty moments between characters adds a very nice contrast that gives the reader a moment to breathe.

Now, despite the content, the writing style is very easy to read and understand. Ms. Coulter does not have her sentences drag out. They are usually short and sweet and make the story flow. Her writing style for this particular series is very much action-based, but it is not all dialogue. This is something I find impressive because in so many advice articles, classes, and books that dialogue and movement is usually key for action stories. But I find that she brings in far more movement and tense slow silences rather that fast pace action. Of course, she has plenty of explosions, pop in your face moments that take you aback as well.

Ms. Coulter works very well with simplicity. Simplicity is her weapon of choice with her writing style and she uses it very well. This is not, typically, a series that will require a whole lot of thought even as you are working with the detectives to solve the crime. Though you are immerse in the story, you're still part of the audience, watching all of this happen.

Now, there Ms. Coulter is one of my favorite thriller-writers. I really have loved each of her FBI stories and get a lot of amusement and excitement from them. However, to be fair there are some negatives.

Warning, there might be some general spoilers following:

1) While the crimes themselves are very different, emotional, tense, and scary...the subplots are typically predictable. Now, some might like this. I don't have a problem with it, but others might not enjoy the fact that they can predict a lot about the romance or the characters.

2) She'll kill off people, she'll make you feel worry for each character because you really grow to love and care for them. However, she very rarely has a very sad/bad ending. I have not read every book in the series as of yet, but I have read most. And though I LOVE happy endings, there might be some of you who would appreciate a bit more dark realism and sad endings. You more than likely won't get a hardcore one in her books. But, I must say, while the endings will typically be happy, the middle content typically will not be.

3) This is a negative I find with a few different series and it is more of a lack of research and is mainly the book covers. I don't like it when the covers do not have the number the book in the series. True, it just takes a few minutes of research, but it is just a pet-peeve of mine and her books don't have it either. So if you are starting right from the middle, you might not realize it till you start to read the other of the books.

4) This is another thing some people might be split upon, but she will give you a nice background on characters that might or might not have a huge part in the story as a whole. I happen to like this. In real life, the people who might just be a witness to something still have a life and a story. Ms. Coulter likes to tell you about them for a paragraph or two. Some might not like this, maybe finding it pointless to the story and the characters were created just to see the car drive off or something like that. Some might be thrown off, expecting to have another character that would have a lot more to do with that story than they turn out to have.

5) Although it is in not in every book, Ms. Coulter can bring in the occult or something dealing with magic or religion that some might not consider real. If this is ever brought into a book, some might find it a bit confusing and takes away from the story over all that deals with something so serious. Dealing a serial killer that really can give you goosebumps and then be reminded of something almost fairy-tale-like become a negative. I will say, sometimes she works with these themes very well and sometimes it feels to fall a little short.

But overall, I would highly recommend trying her FBI Thriller series. If you enjoy thrillers, crime, drama, and not very complicated pieces of literature these are great entertaining books. Perfect for any day.

Split SecondNow onto Split Second.

Summary from book flap: "The FBI's Savich and Sherlock are not comforted by the fact that the vicious serial killer they're hunting shares DNA with the notorious Ted Bundy. Meanwhile, Special Agent Lucy Carlisle learns her family tree may also be tainted. At least, that's how it appears when Lucy finds a skeleton in her grandmother's attack. Could it be her long-lost grandfather? This discovery of a ring sewn into the body's trouser cuff leads to revelations about her grandmother's obsession with the ornament and a mysterious group called The Protectors. While all this makes little sense to Lucy, she inuits that her discovery is tied to the killer who has Savich and Sherlock in his crosshairs. And only she can save them...."

Snippet of 1st Chapter by Catherine Coulter:

"Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Tuesday night

Nonfat milk, Fritos, and bananas, Savich repeated to himself as he pulled into the parking lot of Mr. Patil's Shop 'n Go. It was after eight o'clock, and Savich was on his way home from a hard workout at the gym. He felt good, his muscles relaxed and warm, and he looked forward to playing with Sean, maybe with his new video game, Wonky Wizards. He breathed in deeply, enjoying the bite of fall in the air. He looked up at the low-lying clouds that promised to bring showers in the next couple of hours. Nonfat milk and Fritos and--what else?

There was only one car in the parking lot, which wasn't unusual at this time of the evening. A strange play of rapid movement behind the store's large glass window caught his eye. He pulled the Porsche to the far side of the parking lot, out of the line of sight, got out, quietly closed the door, and walked to the edge of the window. he could see a man inside, his face flattened in a leg of pantyhose, standing in front of the counter, pointing a Saturday night special at Mr. Patil's chest. Mr. Patil, who wasn't more than five five with lifts in his shoes and was at least seventy-five years old, looked petrified. He could hear the man yelling at him, but couldn't make out what he was saying. Then he saw a customer. At the end of the counter stood a man about his own age, wearing a bright red Redskins sweatshirt, jeans, and glasses.

Savich felt his heart seize.

Pressed against the man's legs were two small children, a boy and a girl. His hands were wrapped around their shoulders, hugging them tightly against him. Each child held an ice- cream bar, now forgotten.

Keep it together. He couldn't call 911, and take the chance of sirens freaking the guy out, not with kids still in the line of fire. He quickly ran around to the back of the Shop 'n Go and heard the engine running before he saw the Chevy Impala, tucked in the shadows off the parking asphalt. He saw a woman in the driver's seat, leaning in toward the passenger's side to get a partial view inside the store. Since she wasn't wearing panty hose on her head, she obviously wasn't slated to join the actual robbery; she was just there to drive the man in the store out of here. Savich couldn't see the license plate. No matter. She hadn't seen him. Good.

Forget her, let her get away. He crouched down and ran back around to the front of the store. He held his SIG at his side and began whistling. He opened the door and called out, "Good evening, Mr. Patil," and the man in the panty hose whirled around, his gun leading, as the little girl yelled," He'll hurt you!"
The man froze for the longest instant of time in Savich's memory. Savich saw the father grab the children and hurl them to the floor, and then he fell over them while Mr. Patil hefted a six-pack of beer the man had brought to the counter. Then Savich's SIG was up, and he fired. The rule was always to fire only when you intended to kill, but the bullet didn't go into the man's chest, it went into his shoulder. The man screamed, fell hard to his knees, clutching his shoulder, and the .22 went flying."
As you read, the story starts off rolling fast. You're (re-)introduced to Agent Savich who is thrown into one of the first mysteries of the book. But the main focus is this serial killer who is murdering woman and has a connection to an infamous killer Ted Bundy. Now, this man is NOT from a previous book nor is he fiction. Ms. Coulter uses an actual serial killer. You do not need to read up on him to understand anything in the book, a general snypopis of his crimes is explained. The serial killer is a sort of copy-cat killer of Ted Bundy and is very twisted in their reasons for the killings.

The FBI unit led by Dillion Savich is on the case to find this killer and put a stop to him. Within his team is his wife Lacey Sherlock, Lucy Carlisle, and Cooper McKnight. But before they are able to get a proper start to the investigation, Lucy get's the shocking phone call that her father has suffered a heart-attack.

For a few chapters it is about her life after losing him and the agents concern for her and their investigation. Things are growing slow and worrisome until Lucy discovers a shocking secret and the agents get DNA from their killer. Twists and turns abound for this book!

There are four to five mysteries in total for Split Second. It feels like it has much more than Ms. Coulter's typical books. Usually there are two to three.

The serial killer is the main focus of the book. Interestingly enough it starts off on the second chapter with this investigation. And what a terrifying start it is. You're placed within the mind of the first victim and are instantly involved in the capture of this twisted individual. The serial killer mystery is heart pounding and heart wrenching and keeps throwing so many surprising twists you won't be sure which way to look.

Lucy discovers her grandfather's remains in the attic of her grandmother's house. You, and Lucy, know from chapter three who the killer was (again in a heart wrenching way) but not the why. But the discovery of the body isn't until towards the early-middle of the book. A body is known about but unable to be found.

A mysterious ring found on the grandfather's body. This is the key to the many troubles that start to follow Lucy around and has a special ability that most are prepared to kill for.

How the whole book starts off is the next biggest mystery. An attempted robbery gone wrong or something else? You will watch as Detective Savich solves this attempted murder while balancing having another killer after his life.

Now onto the main things I really enjoyed about this particular book.

Positives (minor SPOILERS ahead)

1) The killer in this book is great. The twists and turns and frustrations are played out great. You're built up to really, really just loathe them and their insanity then right towards then end you start to feel pity! It was done very well and their crimes and actions were sickening and horrible. It made for a good mystery story. You keep reading to make sure they meet their justice and you feel terror and want to scream at the pages when they approach their victims. (btw: just because I say they don't assume it is more than one or less than one.)

2) The background mysteries are really fun. While they might not be the best side-mysteries of hers overall, they are tantizling enough that you just want to know what is going on. What I really liked, and what just made me keep reading in a frustrating 'gah! gotta know!' manner, was how she would bring it in then go back to the main mystery for chapters and chapters then BAM you're reminded about it. And you are reminded in a way that makes you want to forget the other mysteries and then BAM you're back in another. It was fabulously horrible. It really forced me to keep reading it, but in an enjoyable way. I think being "fabulously horrible" should be exactly how a mystery/crime thriller should be.

3) This goes a bit with the 2 point but the build up of tension is done well. It is something I don't think I have ever been disappointed with Ms. Coulter's work. She knows just how long to draw something out before turning your attention to another thing, bringing it back to the focus again, and then resolving it. Now, I will admit sometimes the finish off isn't as good as it feels like it could've been, but typically they are done really well and always so much fun to read about. They also provide a break between the main typically heavier crime.

This will be a good time to transition into the negatives the book posed. While I enjoyed the crimes and the main villain greatly. I found that there were plenty of aspects in the book that was lacking.

Negatives (minor SPOILERS ahead)

1) Remember how I mentioned above about a magic or occult theme may be introduced into the story? Well it is in this book and it falls a little short for me. What the magic is is really fun and how it is connected to one of the different crimes (won't say which one) is very cool. However, something feels lacking in how this "magic" is used throughout the book.

2) The summary is very misleading this time. Typically it isn't, but the summary makes something feels like a big point but I honestly can't even remember it being mentioned.

3) I had issues with the main female of this book, Lucy Carlisle. I found she was a bit flat and was overshadowed by the rest of the characters in the book. She was almost too normal in the sea of some pretty interesting people (like Savich and Sherlock). And the outstanding quirk/flaw she had was more frustrating than interesting. She has trust issues with those around her and keeps lying despite the fact she understands it would be better in the long run to tell the truth. However, she seems to keep things going in a circle or dragging on because she simply does not want to tell those who care about her what she is going through. This could've been a fun quirk, however, I feel like I didn't get a positive impact from it and it hindered me in connecting with Lucy.

4) I was a bit thrown off by Savich's character in this one. Or at least a bit what was happening around him. It might be hard to put into words, but for some reason it felt like there were just constant opportunities for him to cheat on his wife. It is not in his character too, but it felt like more woman were hitting on him and something about the wording in his reaction felt like he was tempted to. I didn't like this since this is really not Dillion Savich that I've known for about...I think this might be the 16th book. So that was a turn off.

Overall, this might be my least favorite of the series so far. It is not a bad book by any means, but it doesn't seem to match some of the great ones like The Maze or Riptide. I feel like with one of the main characters lacking and the magic-theme not reaching its full potential it left a lot to be desired. But it is certainly not something to be passed over if one was to start the series. There were plenty of positives about it that would give a people a lot of enjoyment.

I would rate this book about 2.5 out of 5 stars, but the series over all would have to at least be a 4 out of 5.

I recommend this book and the series to older teens (maybe 17) and above. There are some very dark themes and some sexual tones that would not be appropriate for anyone much younger than the given age.

If you just want a laid back and entertaining book too read, I would recommend this book and series. It is easy to get into, easy to follow, and easy to read. This is not a dramatic-headache book and feels like it could easily be turned into a movie. You want a book you could read probably within less than a week and a good escape? You like mystery and crime? You enjoy some pretty believable and fun romances? Go for the FBI Thriller series!

If you are interested in any of Catherine Coulter's work along with getting some snippets of the first chapters, please check out her website:

1 comment:

  1. I'm telling you now (as I've said before) you NEED to become an editor. Seriously, it's your life's calling. I love this review, as I love all of your reviews. And have I mentioned lately that you're the best critique partner EVAR????