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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

TBR Challenge for September

This month's challenge is to read a book by an author who shares at least one of your initials. Here's what I picked:

***½ The Death Prayer by David Bowker. Horror.

The Death Prayer is a police procedural wrapped up in a horror novel. Or vice versa. Detective Superintendent Vernon Laverne (his name drove me nuts, btw) is known on the force as an unorthodox cop with an uncanny ability to solve cases. So when bodies are found that have been killed in seemingly impossible ways, he's tasked with tracking down the killer. But to appease his opponents, he's paired with the more practical Inspector Lyn Savage, in a kind of Mulder/Scully partnership.

The trail leads them to a spooky faith healer, and to the surprising revelation of just why Laverne is so good at his job.

I've had this book in my TBR pile for several years. I'd bought it on someone's recommendation, though I've no idea whose. It's a hard book to pigeonhole. Very atmospheric, which is why I called it "horror." It could also be classed as urban fantasy, but I don't think it succeeds in that genre as well. I had to ignore everything I "knew" about urban fantasy to enjoy the read. For example, I was certain that the killer, and possibly Laverne as well, were vampires. (They're not.)

My overwhelming impression of the book is that it's a small story padded with a horror atmosphere into novel-length. The plot is fine, the characters intriguing, and the atmosphere of the book is very convincingly spooky, but I wanted more: more characterization, more danger, more suspense, more... something to make it unique. How many hundreds of stories have the same basic plot and character types? I wanted something more to make it stand out. Maybe, as I said, if I hadn't read as much urban fantasy already, or even as many mysteries, I'd have loved it. No doubt I'm jaded.

For someone who loves police procedurals and doesn't mind the supernatural, but doesn't read much of it, this book would probably be perfect. For me, it was just okay.

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