It’s been a while since I’ve read any kind of crime thriller, and I’ve quite missed it. Books like Red Dragon, The Bone Collector and Intensity certainly have their place in the horror world. After all, what’s scarier than reading about something more than capable of happening right in our own backyards by the person down the street who’s convinced their homicidal ideations are healthy and normal? I was looking forward to taking that kind of ride. Unfortunately, the scenery was too familiar to sit back and thoroughly enjoy it.
In A Life Removed, a uniformed cop and a male/female detective duo play as the story’s protagonists who—in different ways—are involved in the investigation of a string of local murders that point to the work of a serial killer…or killers. While there is some originality in the story, customary police procedural tropes that may bore the veteran sub-genre reader litter the pages, all while Parent points exactly where we should look and how to feel. In short, he doesn’t trust us.
Now before I steer you clear of the book completely, let me acknowledge that some of what bothered me about A Life Removed may not bother others. Info dumps, for example. While some readers may enjoy full descriptions of every character they meet as soon as they’re introduced, I prefer a subtle approach—the author creatively and stealthily providing the information. But here, a handful of characters are introduced like drab instructions one must trudge through to get to the good—an evil that didn’t feel necessary.
As the book moved on and dialogue began, I found it hard to care for any of the characters. Other than the stereotypical ornery, elder detective, they felt generic with no real personalities setting them apart. Dialogue is a craft to be honed all on its own and can make or break the love or hatred of any character. Adult men spouting off dick and fart jokes with excessive inner dialogue pointing out the obvious makes it hard to find that level of respect we need for our main guys, good or bad. With the exception of the colorful language, after a while the book felt like a young adult piece.
So far this review has painted a less than stellar portrayal of A Life Removed, but it’s certainly not a book I would say to run from. I believe there’s an audience for this book, particularly those getting their first introduction into the crime/thriller sub-genre. Does it stand up to the likes of Deaver, Harris, or even Patterson? No, but I am convinced that Parent is still finding his voice, and he most definitely has one. The biggest stumbling block here is not trusting the reader, which I do commend him on finally doing with the very end of the book. He ceased the force feeding with an ending that not only was not spelled out but left a question or two—some redemption for holding our hand most of the way.