Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rusty Nail/J.A. Konrath


This is the third in the Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels crime series. All of the titles are names of drinks which figure into the story but not always as the drink.

This is the last book in the series that I will read for reasons described below.

As the book opens, Jack and her partner Herb are exchanging their customary gross-out humor when she receives an envelope containing a videocassette. When they play it they get a shock from the past. A murder that looks exactly like it was carried out by the serial killer Gingerbread Man (see Whiskey Sour) plays on the screen. But the Gingerbread Man is dead.

As they begin to assemble clues, it becomes clear that killer has a knowledge of the Gingerbread Man that wouldn't be available to a copy-cat. Jack has to look at the origins of the Gingerbread Man and what she finds horrible beyond belief.

As with the previous books, the story alternates between the first person narrative by Jack and third person present tense descriptions mostly from the view of the killer. The killer seems to be several steps ahead of the police and even playing with them.

Jack's personal life continues to be a mess. Her mother is still in a coma. Latham and Jack have split up. Mr. Friskers the cat is still psychotic.

Why am I giving up after the third in a series? I'm having a more difficult time articulating my reasons in print than I thought I would if you consider that I wouldn't have a hard time saying nice things -- Konrath writes well, the stories are imaginative, the action is fast paced, and provide good escapism.

I admit that I may be applying unreasonable standards to what is entertainment. I often overlook instances of the examples I give below in other books but when they accumulate they become a barrier to my enjoyment.

It comes down to my expectations for a type of book. The Jack Daniels series are police procedural thrillers and I apply a "reasonable person standard." It X situation, how would a big city detective with 20 years experience act. There are far too many "you got to be kidding, why would you do Y" moments. Several time I thought that, had I been Jack's boss, I would have fired her or busted her back to uniform.

Rusty Nail annoyed me from the start with Jack's partner, Herb, dreading his colonoscopy. He tells Jack that she should be happy she's not a man and doesn't have to deal with this stuff. Jack agrees. Umm, a colonoscopy is not a procedure limited to men and isn't related to the prostate which, I guess, is what they are supposed to be thinking. It is reasonable to assume that Jack and Herb would know that. Yea, it sounds picky, but remember, these are my expectations. Herb should have said something along the lines "Laugh now, but you'll get yours in the end" which would have been worth a chuckle.

I'm not shy about violence in books. Adrian McKinty's dead series is a favorite of mine. And very violent. And includes scenes of torture. With the Jack Daniels series, each book seems to be trying to outdo the previous ones in describing the depravity and cackling insanity of the killers. It's a bit much after a while.

So far, in each book, the killer has a personal interest and is specifically targeting Jack. It is not a problem for the detective investigating the case to be a target. But every time? Give someone else a chance.

I also realized that I don't like Jack. I don't mind sarcasm, enjoy it even. But Jack's vitriolic, condescending, sarcasm toward the two FBI agents is tiresome. I want to slap her upside the head and tell her to shut up and listen for a change. The only characters I do like are Mr. Friskers the the psycho cat and Phen (Pheneas), the ex-con, Jack's pool partner, and occasional informant.

There are other things such telegraphing events - if Jack does "this" you know that "that" is going to happen. Some readers like this, it gives then a delicious sense of anticipation. I don't mind it in small doses but too much and it become predictable.