Monday, January 19, 2015

January's Book: The Kill Room

The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver
Crime (2013 - 608 pp.)

I don't usually read crime fiction, so this was an interesting read for me. The closest comparison for books I've read in the couple years is probably Heat Wave, although The Kill Room is understandably less kitschy and sensationalized due to The Kill Room not being written by a fictional character. For all of Jeffery Deaver's commercial success and accolades, this was the first time I'd ever actually picked up one of his books. I'm glad I did. That he was a practising lawyer makes the criminal law elements of the book feel more informed, which is a plus for me.

To the limited extent I am familiar with crime fiction tropes, The Kill Room has plenty. There are some huge logical stretches in terms of how Lincoln Rhyme solves problems. I admittedly do not think like a detective, so I tend to avoid making assumptions whenever possible, but some details seem less helpful to what Rhyme makes of them than others. Suspending disbelief, the plot holds together well, although at times I feel like too many conclusions are made from relatively minor points. Giving examples is impossible in this genre, as there is a spoiler on virtually every page.

One of Deaver's largest accomplishments in The Kill Room is omitting facts the reader thought s/he knew so effectively that, upon later revelations of shocking details, the reader flips back to see that his/her competing assumptions were completely wrong. Tied to this is the way, through forshadowing or otherwise, Deaver uses earlier details to affect later situations. An example outside of crime fiction would be making a character be made of wood and thus be super-strong but ultimately killed in a fire.

One thing that jumped out at me was the convention of naming characters. I've been thinking about character names more than ever recently, so I noticed the disparity in how certain characters are named. As a general rule, I've come to like character names that are uncommon while believable, or to put it another way, that you've never heard before but wouldn't be surprised if you saw them. Naming everyone Dave Johnson is a great way to have readers mix characters up with each other, while naming everyone like a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic character makes the story less believable. In The Kill Room's case, I found names like Amelia Sachs, Jacob Swann and Annette Bodel to be exactly the kinds of names I could see people having without ever having met anyone with them. Lincoln Rhyme, conversely, sounds too perfect, too crafted as a character name, as though Deaver really wanted to make the name special rather than human. Nance Laurel's name is slightly guilty of this as well. Then again, some people really do have names that are just that great.

Something that surprised me was the amount of falling action in The Kill Room. There are nearly 70 pages of it. I had always thought of any book with a mystery element to be solved in the last chapter, with nothing else to comment afterward. The Kill Room arguably drags out a little at the end. Once the crime is solved, given how plot-driven the crime fiction genre is, I don't really need to see the characters anymore. They did their job.

This was a fun read that was a nice break from the aggressively didactic, aggressively anti-didactic, or flat-out mind-bending material I read toward the end of 2014. Recommended for long flights.

Ease of Reading: 9
Educational Content: 2

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