Buried too deep: John Sandford's crime novel: Buried Prey
All last week I was on a demanding immersion course in Spain, so I put the lacklustre nature of the first half of this book down to tiredness. After page 200, though, when the killer's point-of-view was introduced, it suddenly picked up. It was no effort to finish it during the return journey. I was all ready next day, it being the third Saturday of the month, to discuss it at my local crime readers' group.
Maybe it would have helped if it hadn't been the twelfth book in a series with a particular Minneapolis-based detective; the author was assuming a certain amount of groundwork. But, as a newcomer, why should I be interested in Lucas Davenport, who seemed a bit of a wuss in his wool suit, most unsuitable, ha-ha, as it happened, for kneeling in mud. This was activity much in demand in his line of work.
To make matters worse it's a cold case - two small skeletons surface during land clearance and they turn out to belong to Lucas's first case, when he thought his colleagues had named the wrong killer but he lacked the authority to follow up his hunches. Not only has reader no stake in the case, not having known the victims, who are sisters, but their mother turns out to be a callous publicity-seeker, bizarrely launching a career on the back of her TV appeals. It's only when we get to know the killer, still at large, that the reader's attention is engaged.
This isn't necessarly a bad thing, although style and wit are always welcome, but it means the action should take hold of the imagination early on. Otherwise, even loyal fans begin to yawn and newcomers may not persist - unless, of course like me they have an incentive that's quite extrinsic to the book itself.