Reviews and the reading for some of John Case’s later novels, many of which said to refer to his earlier work, pointed me in the direction of this novel. So I did just that and bought it to read on holiday. Unfortunately I can say that they were wrong.
The book stars interestingly enough and gives us our first glimpse of the main character Joe Lassiter, a seemingly very successful private investigator running his own highly regarded firm. It’s here that the story started to encounter rocky ground.
Joe is a very rich man running his own investigation company used by the biggest corporates for their most secret work. Despite being the head of this large multi-national company we’re led to believe that he still carries out many of his own investigations. Yet with this experience and knowledge we watch him totally fail to make connections that seem glaringly obvious to the reader, well to me anyway. The character continues to, almost comically, question the problem and run through the lead up to the answer stumbling at the obvious conclusion. It’s hard to believe this character really is who the book claims he is.
This not only happens early on in the story but also towards the end of the book and is dragged on page after page. So it really does affect the story, and affect it negatively.
There are moments of tension, but these seem to be broken by distracting and wondering descriptions, almost as if the character, writer or even reader has just become bored with the main events and noticed something vaguely interesting happen in the periphery of their vision. It’s not even the usual practice of delay to increase tension because the move stands out from the page and is painfully obvious.
The whole book is obvious and you’re not chasing the writer to catch up with the story, he’s chasing you and you’re wishing he would hurry up and catch up to give you something slightly surprising to read.
However this said, the overall plot is an extremely interesting one, and a big plot to boot. Yet it’s all too disappointingly handled and the monumentous idea running through the story is left in the background as we follow the poor excuse for a top investigator.
It’s a shame to see such a strong plot mishandled, it could have been taken in a startling and surprising direction. Instead what happens is the single closing line is what makes you think and extend the premise of the story in your head for some time after, the rest of it, characters and all are lost in an instant. Perhaps other Case books will prove better.