I have very few rules about what I WON'T read.
I won't read novels about vampire lovers.
I won't read books with pictures of over-endowed and half-dressed pouty women (or men, for that matter) on the dust cover.
I won't read books that glorify sadism or sadists.
I won't read books about Hitler.
And I won't read mystery or crime books in which children or animals are the victims. Other than that, most anything goes.
Why, then, did I wind up reading this book in which a five-year-old child is the victim? Well, that's easy enough. It was this month's selection of my local book club.
In the last couple of years as a member of this club, I've been introduced to several writers that I had never read before. I've liked a few of them (Tom Franklin, Harlan Coben, e.g.), a lot of them I found to be mediocre, and a few I've actively disliked. This one, I think, falls in the meh category.
I found the writing rather simplistic, as if it were written for an intermediate school audience. Moreover, the characters did not seem realistic. All of the members of the various investigating teams were paragons of virtue. Egoism and personality clashes never got in the way of their investigation. Everyone was very careful not to step on anyone's toes. Frankly, it just made me long for crusty, irascible Inspector John Rebus.
The story is this: A beautiful five-year-old girl has been kidnapped. She is the daughter of a veteran family court judge and a high-powered defense lawyer who has been known to defend rather shady characters. It seems far too much of a coincidence that thirty years earlier the six-year-old identical twin sister of the family court judge had also been kidnapped. The reader intuits almost immediately that there must be a connection. Well, I mean it's right there in the title, isn't it?
The purpose of this book seems to be mainly to introduce the characters of a private forensics team which will be the focus of an ongoing series. The team is called Forensic Instincts and it is made up of a group of those paragons of virtue that I talked about, who also seem to be endowed with superpowers.
There is the former Navy SEAL who can penetrate any perimeter, the techno-wizard who can perform miracles with computers, and the head of the team, Casey Woods, a behaviorist. They are a renegade investigative unit with unique talents, sort of X-men without the freaky appearances. They will go outside the law and do whatever it takes to solve a case and serve the interests of their clients.
Along the way, they also pick up an "intuitive," i.e., psychic, and a retired straight-arrow, by-the-rules former FBI agent as new members of the team. Oh, and also a bloodhound named Hero.
My credulity was severely strained. I just wasn't buying any of it. I couldn't really get seriously involved with any of the characters. As for the identity of the kidnapper, that seemed fairly obvious early on, even though the full extent of the motive took a while to develop.
Incredibly, these supposedly top-notch investigative teams spent an inordinate hunk of the book concentrating on something that was so obviously a red-herring that I just wanted to grab them by the lapels and scream, "No, no, you're getting it all wrong!"
Even so, I knew from the outset that (Spoiler alert!) the little girl would get home safely. Maybe that's why I was able to keep reading. That plus my sense of responsibility to my mystery book club. See, I'm one of those paragons of virtue, too.