Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Release Spotlight: The Cruelest Cut

The Cruelest Cut
by Eugene Rontal

Sometimes a reader just wants to turn off her or his brain, craves simply the book equivalent of a Saturday-afternoon TV movie. The latest in Gene Rontal’s Detective Ben Daily, M.D. series, The Cruelest Cut, is that book.

Set in Detroit, this mystery reunites laryngologist Ben Daily with homicide lieutenant George Sennett to solve what looks like the work of a particularly gore-loving serial killer. Daily is kept on retainer with the police department, officially as “police surgeon,” the real reason is never clear. He may have more people skills than Sennett, and he may have honed deduction skills, but they’re nothing special. What kind of cop is Sennett if he relies on a crutch in the form of a larynx-and-nose doctor?

Of course no one seems particularly competent—the coroner is too repulsed by one of the killings to do a thorough examination, demands a reason before he’ll show Sennett and Daily the body again, brushes aside their find of a piece of foreign matter as “just debris,” and when he reluctantly determines that it’s a piece of surgical glove, it takes more prodding for him to add that it’s covered in blood. And then he is shocked that they want to test the DNA in the blood.

Detroit’s Arab residents play into both the victim and suspect sides of the case. The main characters make some questionable comments—“ ‘There are 500,000 people in the Detroit area of Arab descent, many of them unwilling to culturally assimilate…now one of them is killed, and my girlfriend is right in the middle of it. Why do they want to pick on her?’ ” Daily asks, calling attention to his belief that the States has one culture to which all people must conform and his conceit that a vague connection to his fiancĂ©e is more important than a young man’s tortured death. Throughout the book both Rontal’s genuine clues and his red herrings are often inserted clunkily—for example, when Daily’s assistant hands him an envelope delivered for him, she describes the courier as, “…in a hurry. He spoke with an accent.” It sounds awkward for someone to mention that detail, especially when not directly asked for it. It sounds too coincidental.

Finally, the ending is unsatisfactory. Though the reader has met the killer earlier in the book, the final reveal is unexpected because we were never told enough about this person to put together the clues. The killer info dumps a strange reasoning for the murders, and readers may feel cheated. Lots of mysteries conclude this way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it works.

Review by Kristin Thiel, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN: 978-1-563154-20-1
Publisher: SterlingHouse Publisher, Inc.
Pub Date: June 2008
Paperback: $14.95

No comments:

Post a Comment