Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme created by book blogger extraordinaire, Renee at It’s Book Talk. She started this weekly feature as a way to highlight old favourites and read books that have already been published. This is becoming one of my favourite features on my blog because it forces me to go back and read some of the books on my shelf that have been sitting there (neglected and probably incredibly sad).
The Killing Lessons, by Saul Black, had been on my TBR list for a couple of years and I was encouraged by several of my book blogging (and real life!) friends to make time to read this book. Since Black’s second novel in the series, Love/Murder, was being published during the summer and featured a stellar synopsis, I figured I would get myself caught up so I could start the series from the beginning.
Two strangers turn up at an isolated farmhouse brutally murdered one and kidnapping another. The murders do not go according to plan, since one small girl survives and now holds the key to the killings. In San Francisco, homicide detective Valerie Hart is feeling the psychological breakdown of a difficult case. Are the situations related? This slow burning mystery follows the mind of the psychopath and the desperation of the woman determined to stop him.
This one left me feeling completely mixed.
Initially, I was completely hooked and sucked into the plot. I was completely creeped out and committed to the story. Black used just the right amount of catch and release to ensure I was on the edge of my seat and I was completely drawn into this story, which managed to fascinate and terrify me at the same time. Truly, the descriptions in the opening chapters were that of a nightmare. Between being caught off guard, the isolated landscape and our terrified ten-year-old narrator, Nell, I found myself holding my breath.
And then everything switched.
We are introduced to Detective Valarie Hart, who I actually did enjoy. She was strong and fierce and had her own share of skeletons in her closet. She is dealing with a case where women are abducted and then found later, across state lines, with random objects left inside them. This case was interesting and I found myself interested to how the first chapter would end up relating. If I am being completely honest, I kind of stopped caring.
As much as I loved the characterization and the general plot, I really felt like the execution of this book was downright strange. It felt like two completely different books haphazardly squished together. Valerie Hart’s sections had a little bit of everything pushed together: her personal life, her past and her case. Nell’s chapters became few and far in between and we randomly would obtain a chapter from her abducted mother. There would be a random chapter thrown in featuring a point of view from the serial killer and then another chapter would be by a man who is helping out Nell. Everything just felt completely disjointed and that made it really hard for me to stay completely connected to the story.
Overall, I liked Black’s writing enough to give the second book in the series a chance (especially since I already have it on my shelf) but it was not my favourite, by far.