Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: DON'T LOOK AWAY

Title: Don't Look Away
Author: Leslie A Kelly
Publisher: LK Books
Pages: 270

Don’t Look Away manages to combine science fiction with a murder mystery to give us a highly engaging thriller.

Set in a highly secure USA in the year, 2022, Leslie A Kelly’s book sees the country swaddled in a rash of security measures since the worst terror attack in human history decimated Washington DC and the White House in 2017. It is a time when all American citizens have to have a tiny chip implanted in their arm to capture their background details, medical and dental data, and criminal records. Like a digital dossier.

Veronica Sloan, a tough cop from the DCPD, is also one of only 500 cops and 5000 people to have the innovative Optical Evidence Programme (OEP) device implanted in her head, making her a willing participant in a radical experiment that will permit the visual memories in her mind to be downloaded and seen by others. In the event of an accident, felony or homicide, it would allow the evidence to be seen through the eyes of witnesses, perpetrators, even victims.

Veronica and her partner, Mark Daniels, are summoned to DC to investigate the murder of Leanne Carr, an employee of a company involved in the rebuilding of the White House, who was brutally tortured before her death. It turns out that Leanne too had undergone the optical implantation.

During the course of the investigation, Veronica is grievously injured by the killer. When she is pronounced unfit for duty, Jeremy Sykes, an FBI agent and an OEP implantee, is invited to carry on the investigation. On the face of it, neither Jeremy nor Veronica can stand each other. On the other hand, both also apparently secretly long to scratch each other’s eyes out, while also longing to jump into each other’s arms and into bed.

It seems that this might be the first OEPIS investigation until it turns out that the killer has made off with Leanne’s head, prompting the investigators to believe that the killer knew about the implantation, narrowing down the list of suspects. Soon, the decapitated head is found again.

The modus operandi is repeated a few days later when two other OEP implantees are found murdered and decapitated, their body parts displayed in an equally gruesome fashion.

Veronica, Mark and Jeremy must now race against time, to find the killer before he or she strikes again.

I found myself quite fascinated with the science fiction bits inherent within the story, especially the 3D projection of the visual memories captured by the OEP device. The viewing of these images really succeeds in accelerating the motion and urgency of the action in our mind’s eye.

Kelly has got the science fiction bits down superbly, down to the imaginary Google FaceSearch software, which, if Google obliges, could really cause all that unthinking uploading of selfies and other photos of ourselves on Facebook and elsewhere to come back and bite us where it hurts the most.

I must also commend Kelly for writing a crackling Prologue, one that grabs your attention instantly. It’s tough pulling off a prologue, something that all the action of the novel, or at least a significant part of it might lead to, and here the author pulls it off with commendable skill. Very often writers set out in the Prologue what does not seem to fit in any of the other chapters.

The reliving of the murder victims’ visual memories was a tricky one that Kelly has managed to pull off well. One, two and three-word sentences also heighten the effect and take us into the mind of the victim.

If there is anything that got tedious for me, it was the sexual tension with which the author tried to beat us every chance she got. The prolonged tug-of-war between Veronica and Jeremy was annoying and added nothing to the urgency of the story. The book would have been shorter and tighter without it.

To add to the tedium, it turns out that Mark has a thing for Veronica too, and he tries his best to be the third side of a love/lust triangle that never should have existed at all.

The repeated sexual references also take away from the story’s focus. Also the character of Veronica, hardnosed, with “balls in her pants”, yet sexy and beautiful, is too much of a cliché to be credible.

Another thing that took away from the character of Veronica was the reflections she was prone to, a thinking ‘aloud’ that we, poor readers, were often subjected to. The “Oh” and “Ha” running riot through her mind talk was childish and off-putting. At one point she even thought of the head of forensics as a “science geek”.

The book ends on the prospect of another delicious sequel, Don’t Ever Stop

I'd love to read another murder mystery involving the OEP device. But only if the love triangle is give a much-needed rest.

(I read a Kindle version of this book on NetGalley.)

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