Friday, August 22, 2014

A Quiet Vendetta by R.J. Ellory

For a book I picked up on a whim, it was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I definitely wasn't expecting much - a normal thriller/police procedural, but not something that drew me in this much.

This book starts with a murder. But not just any murder, the guy's had his heart cut out and placed back in. Plus, someone drew the sign of Gemini on his back. At the same time, Catherine Ducane, the daughter of Governor Ducane (Governor of Louisiana) disappears. When the kidnapper calls, he makes a strange request: he doesn't want money, he wants to talk to Ray Hartmann to tell him his story. Ray Hartmann is a cop who made a few mistakes and is now trying to get his family back together. The last thing he wants to do is to get involved in this case, but he has no choice.

Personally, I didn't enjoy the starting of the novel. It struck me as oddly detached, and the main character didn't even appear Chapter 4 (page 49). That meant for the first few chapters, I had no idea who the main characters were, since they seemed to keep changing, and no idea what was going on.

But, I persevered with the book and slowly, it turned into a rewarding read. For me, the best part of the book has to be the kidnapper's story. He retells his entire life story, from his birth in New Orleans, to the present, and it's complex. It's dark, it involves the mafia, it involves politics, it involves some of the most sensational murders of all time, it's basically a standalone story.

I'm not even sure why the book went through all the trouble of placing this story into another one. The kidnapping/murder case didn't make much progress because the suspect was right there, taking his own sweet time confessing.

While there is a whole cast of characters, only the kidnapper (Perez) and Ray were truly fleshed-out characters, to me, the rest of the characters didn't stand out at all. The rest were more like props than supporting actors. But that could be because both Perez and Ray were such deeply troubled men that their troubles stole the show and prevented other characters from fully developing (at least, not without expanding the novel by another couple hundred pages).

Overall, this is a worthwhile read. Hidden behind the slow start and what seems like a normal police procedural is an entrancing tale of the underbelly of the world. Sure, it's a work of fiction (and I'm glad it's a work of fiction), but it does a good job of transporting you to another side of life.

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