Length: 416 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
A new serial killer is in town and his chosen victims have a creepy resemblance to television presenter, Kendall Shaw. The victims are found with little charms around their necks, each bearing a name that isn’t theirs. And as Detective Jacob Warwick attempts to make some sense of the string of murders, Kendall begins her own investigation. Haunted by nightmares that seem all too real, Kendall’s pursuit is not easy. And yet, she perseveres, her gut pulling her to follow the case that feels too close to home. The clues to reality lie in her dreams and in the past of each of the victim’s. But time is running out. Can Jacob and Kendall find and stop the killer before he reaches Kendall? Or is she doomed to the fate that the killer has chosen for her?
The blurb of this book promises a thrilling, edge of your seat read that leave you turning the pages late into the night. Maybe that was the reason it was altogether, a little disappointing. While I cannot say that I disliked this book, I am unable to say that I liked it either. Hence, the average rating.
There were many things that Mary Burton got right with Dead Ringer. The serial killer with a creepy and disturbing motive, the maze that he leaves behind, the sexy and slightly flawed detective who tries to piece things together, the popular heroine who has too many secrets behind her confident and beautiful facade, the killer’s obsession with said heroine, the detective’s obsession with protecting said heroine while solving the case and the chemistry that develops between the defensive detective and stubborn heroine who share a past that left both of them more scarred than before. Burton even had a good story, one that played out quite perfectly in the end, all pieces fitting together. Her characters were more or less easy to associate with given that they weren’t too different from those that make up most of these stories. All in all, Burton had a fool proof setting and a good story when she approached Dead Ringer. And that may leave many people asking – so what went wrong?
The problems I had were not so few that they could be ignored. Eventually, they caught up and became annoying, making the book a little difficult to enjoy. To begin with, the story was great, but it lost a lot of its charm in the way it was written. Past and present collided strangely and that too, only at random points, making it all the more difficult to accept as part of the flow. You can piece together the entire scenario of each person and their past, but not very comfortably. Pieces of information just pop up and leave you going, “Oh… that explains that strange behavior of thirty pages ago!”
Then, there was the strange character building. None of the characters were too well defined. Or maybe, they came across like that because of the way their back stories were put across. They behaved uncharacteristically in many situations, their actions leaving me wondering what they were really like. While that may not seem like a big deal, it does throw a wrench into the flow of a story when you don’t even know what the character is like. Their superficial personalities were intact, but everything else was left to sort itself out.
And then comes the point with which I, personally, had the biggest problem – the chemistry between Jacob and Kendall. Put simply, it was forced and abrupt. These two people are shown as having nothing but anger towards each other to begin with. That is understandable given that he’s a detective and she’s a reporter who keeps breaking into his crime scenes. So, when Jacob randomly starts lusting after her for a grand total on one paragraph every fifty pages, it kind of pops right out and bites you. I mean I have no problem if he’s interested in Kendall. But how about giving us a heads up about it, especially when half the book is from his point of view where he only talks about how annoying she is; instead of suddenly talking about how she gives him a hard on! The same thing applies to Kendall. Although her desires are less vocal and vivid, they’re equally random and out of place. Chemistry is important and in this case, given their brief but impactful past, could have been brilliant. But it was sorely disappointing.
All in all, I cannot condemn the book because even though it wasn’t an edge of your seat read, it was interesting enough to keep you going once you learn to ignore the problems. What Mary Burton does manage to do is keep you curious. You may not care much about what happens in the next few pages, but you will definitely want to know what happens at the end. That was what kept me going. It didn’t keep me hooked late into the night, but I did spend some time on it every day. Even with the problems, I think Mary Burton has good stories; although, in my opinion, she just doesn’t present them as well as they can be presented. I wouldn’t shy away from reading another of her works and will probably enjoy them more now that I know what to expect.
A little slow and maybe even cliched, but Dead Ringer is worth a read for anyone who likes mysteries, thrillers and serial killer based stories. Fans of Iris Johansen and, to some extent, Mary Higgins Clark will find this a good read – maybe not too exciting, but good enough.