Jeffrey Deaver’s second thriller, Death of a Blue Movie Star, continues the adventures of the girl-woman Rune as she gets mixed up with the sex industry and a mad arsonist called Gabriel.
This is only the third novel I’ve read by J.D. and I’m already spotting similarities.
The mad bomber angle was explored more successfully in Hell’s Kitchen; the lead in that novel was also a documentary film maker as Rune aspires to be here; the heroine forms an uneasy relationship with a man; the novel proceeds through a series of ‘interviews’ and ‘incidents’ which are carefully orchestrated to ensure the identity of the villain is kept in the dark; Rune gets cornered by the bad guys several times just as she did in Manhattan is my Beat; there is a twist at the end which while taking us by surprise leaves us equally bemused as it rather spoils the arc of the story; Rune is a tiny girl who gets beaten up a lot, but never ever surrenders; tough men always dress like cowboys (I had images of Village People when ever J.D. mentioned Sam Healy’s moustache and chunky leather belt and boots). I could go on, you get the general idea.
I didn’t dislike the book. It’s easy to read, constructed in a clever, woven fashion which doesn’t disappoint, and its characters have an air of believability about them. The only dumb note struck is that the motives (the mental ailments!) of the bad guys seem over the top. J.D. only touches on the psychological aspects of the protagonists so they all feel a bit half baked. While the serial killer Tommy Savorne comes across as a smooth talking sadist, the afore mentioned Gabriel is bland and uninteresting. Even his moniker the Sword of Jesus is a bit twee.
J.D. doesn’t give us more than a sentence or two of real description at any one time and this drip-drip method often delivers a lack of genuine atmosphere in the locations. Deaver writes for the moment, not the overall picture. It has effective moments, but I yearned for something more constructive.
The story is very dialogue heavy and not all relevant, lots of incidental everyday chat interferes with the important informative speeches. I think the author’s actually rather frightened of dialogue and covers this up with a realistic talky style that he hopes will invest depth of character to his people. Almost everything we learn about their personas comes from their mouths or their eyes, another of J.D.’s fetishes: green, blue, red, crying, penetrating laser eyes. He’s big on eyes.
So not bad then, but I’m still reserving judgement.
The Deaver Reading Club #5 Death of a Blue Movie Star
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