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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Body of David Hayes by Ridley Pearson

The Body of David Hayes by Ridley Pearson. New York: Hyperion, 2004. ISBN: 0-7868-6725-6

I'm frankly somewhat surprised, looking back, that I made it through this novel. It has so many things NOT going for it, going by my usual standards. Starting with the blah and uninspiring title. Why should we care about the body of someone we've never even heard of? Surely some editor somewhere could have come up with a more intriguing title than that!

Next, the story line itself. It breaks one of the most fundamental but yet most often broken rules (in my jaundiced view) of mystery novels, namely, that the plot should not directly involve the lives of the detective or his or her family. Only the very best authors (or at least, the ones I really like!) can get away with this. Why should that be a rule? It goes right to the heart of believability. It's just too great a coincidence for us to believe that the detective, be that individual official or amateur, is constantly stumbling into mysteries involving his or her own family or immediate acquaintances. Sorry, but these kinds of stories just don't ring true to life.

According to Pearson's web site, this is the 9th Boldt/Matthews novel. It's the first one I've read, and probably the last, so I don't even know who Matthews is. If he or she was featured in this story, I've already forgotten, which shows how much of an impression it made.

The basic plot line involves Lou Boldt's wife, Liz, a high level bank official, who had an affair several years earlier with a computer whiz, the David Hayes for whom the book is named, who electronically embezzled $17 million from the bank. The money was never recovered, and may have been laundered for the Russian mafia. David is now out of jail, and one of Lou's fellow officers, a fellow named Danny Foreman, is investigating David's disappearance.

There are frankly so many twists and turns in this highly convoluted plot, that to try and list even a few of them would make your head spin. From one page to the next, we're not sure who the good guys or bad guys are, at least within law enforcement, or who is trying to trap whom. The only reliable bad guys are the Russian mobsters, and even they occasionally seem to have their good side.

Frankly, the plotting is way over the top for my taste. Give me something a little simpler, a little more straightforward. I prefer more emphasis on relationships and believable character development than on complicated plotting. And frankly, I didn't find either Lou or his wife that sympathetic of people. Not folks I really care to know, or develop long-term relationships with. If a Seattle setting for nonstop action that requires some serious concentration to keep track of is your thing, why go for it.

Only marginally recommended. And I only say that much, because I did actually finish the book, instead of dropping it after 50 or so pages. Not sure why, but I did. Why did I even pick it up? Because it's also on that Washingon Reads list of mysteries set in Washington State.


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