Okay, here's a confession: I really, really don't want to write this review.
Why, you ask? Well, because this is a self-published first novel by a fellow blogger. Being in the throes of writing my own novel - and considering how I've been struggling with my writing lately - I really hate to write a distinctly negative opinion of this book, knowing the courage it probably took for the author to put her own money down and publish it.
It has several glowing reviews on Amazon, and I've seen reviews of it on other blogs as well - all of which simply gushed and gushed about how awesome the story was...and I just don't understand how any sane person could say such a thing. I'm sorry but here it is, the dirty truth: this book should never have gone into print in its current form. It reads like a really, really terrible first/rough draft, and I just can't wrap my head around how anyone could enjoy it.
First things first - the ridiculous number of grammatical errors. Normally I would blame this on a bad or outright botched editing job, because admittedly it's obvious that some of them are probably just typos...but by "some" I mean maybe 30%, 40% max. The rest is simply downright incorrect grammar - more often than not comma usage (or the lack of it) - and this I simply cannot abide, considering the author is apparently a high school English teacher. I certainly don't claim to have perfect grammar (especially when it comes to this blog), but as I turned page after page to find the same distinct and easily correctable errors over and over and over again I became almost horrified at the consistency with which these errors were repeated. By someone who published a book, but even more so, by someone who teaches grammar lessons to teenagers.
As for the story itself, I lost sight of where this was going within the first few chapters. The writing style appears to be geared toward a young adult readership at best, while the actual plot and themes are, well, too mature for that audience. Of course, while I say that the plot - the idea of a serial killer who tortures, rapes and kills women - is too mature, its development and the characters it features are the exact opposite. I'm not sure if it is the author being naive or if she was simply trying - and failing - to immerse the reader in the mid-1950s era in which the novel is set. Characters fall in and out of love every other day and every couple resorts to calling each other "honey" or "baby" every time they speak to each other (to the point of being ridiculous and far beyond any sort of stylized dialogue that would fit into a 1950s setting).
Another issue is that not one of the characters is likable and in fact they are mostly unbelievable. This goes beyond the constant usage of words like honey and baby; it goes beyond the fact that in the course of 219 pages the main character, Bobbi, falls hard and fast for three different men. I understand that she is meant to be an "independent woman" who doesn't fit in the world of the 1950s, but her actions and reactions not only don't fit in that decade, they don't fit the character she is originally described to be. This is a problem that also crops up with the original picture we are given of the detective, Charlie, but at no point are there details given that would help the reader understand whether these are action-driven changes or whether the author simply does not know how to introduce characters, period.
In conclusion, I will say that I can safely rate this novel 2/5 stars (rather than the 1/5 it may deserve) because there are a handful of decent surprises thrown into the mystery aspect of the plot. I feel that if the author had spent less time trying to create cheesy relationships and ridiculous characters and more time on the technical aspects of the mystery, the book as a whole would have been far better for it. As a side note, the last few chapters - which introduce yet another new character - were a bad idea as a whole and not only the story but the idea of it being continued in a second book would have been better set up by a brief epilogue introducing the general idea put forth in the last few chapters. I would honestly love to see the author revisit and revamp this story in a second edition, hopefully using a proper editor, because there *is* some potential there.