Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Title: Dead Air
Author: Michael Bradley
Narrator: Rachel Fulginiti 
Publisher: CamCat Books
Audio length: 9 hours, 22 minutes
Pages: 300
My GoodReads Rating: 

Kaitlyn Ashe, a DJ on the prime night slot in Philadelphia, has been getting the same letter every day. A threatening letter, comprising letters cut out from newspapers and magazines, that reminds her of something she did in the Shallows, where she lived when she was 16 years old and her name was Laura Hobson. The letters also ask her to play REO Speedwagon, a band whose music holds memories for her, a band she will never play again.

Having put that event behind her, and having reinvented herself after years of therapy, Kaitlyn is anxious not to have her secret outed. She keeps her past hidden from her boyfriend, Brad Ludlow, a hotshot lawyer, who has no idea that Kaitlyn is not who she claims to be. Meanwhile, her stalker is watching and planning their next move.

Kaitlyn won’t tell her boyfriend a thing. She won’t even tell the police, not even when the stalker murders Brad.

Detective Rodney Shapiro and his partner, Julie Lewis, are assigned the case. Right from the start, Rodney finds himself overtly sympathetic towards Kaitlyn because she is the spitting image of what his own daughter, Carol, might look like when she is older. Julie, on the other hand, suspects Kaitlyn from the start.

Rodney doesn’t question Kaitlyn the way a police office should. His questions, few in number, are posed as though he is a Victorian gentlewoman, utterly genteel. He just takes it for granted that she is innocent, and at one point, even gives her his own gun so she can defend herself.

The events in Kaitlyn’s life play to the backdrop of a larger crime: the killing of gay, bisexual and transmen by a serial killer, known as the GBT strangler, in Philadelphia. Even though this case is not under the jurisdiction of Rodney, it gets more than a little screen time from him.

The book is set in Philadelphia. We know that because the author tells us that. The setting does not come alive for us at all. It might as well be Anytown. Even the fact that Kaitlyn’s house overlooks a cemetery fails to register. Kaitlyn tells us it is eerie, but the mood fails to touch us.

The story is told by a female narrator, mostly in the third-person past tense PoVs of Kaitlyn and Rodney and occasionally from the first-person PoV of the stalker.


The writing was prosaic. The character voice didn’t stand out for any character.

I didn’t like Kaitlyn and couldn’t care less about her romance with the utterly bland Brad. We got details of her life, her work and her dates with Brad, but none of it helped. Kaitlyn remained flat and insipid as a character. The Harley she rides didn’t make her any more appealing. The single tears that flowed down her cheek were annoying. When we finally come to know the secret that she has been holding on to, we find it just as unimpressive. Also, the fear that REO Speedwagon induces is never properly explained.

In fact, not one of the characters in this novel stood out.

Rodney is well read and can quote from the classics. He does too, without the slightest improvement in his overall personality.

When we are first introduced to Rodney, there’s no reason why he should give his colleague, Julie, a “quick once-over” just to give us her physical description and then his own contrasting one. It was extremely clumsy.

I’m no expert on police procedure but there just didn’t seem to be much activity on the part of the police. Rodney asked gentle questions; there was no real probing, no looking for clues. We don’t get an impression of a tight case.

The proceedings were so banal that I didn’t feel involved at all, didn’t even feel compelled to suspect anyone. The stalker was that obvious. But not to Rodney and Kaitlyn.

Even when the stalker escalated their actions, I didn’t get the feeling of a real danger facing Kaitlyn. Then when the stalker started whining about a lost wig, and the DNA that could be gleaned from it, without once worrying about the cigarette stubs left all over the place, I wanted to cry.

The author tells us a lot about Rodney’s daughter, Carol, with whom he is estranged. The most unbelievable thing is that after droning on and on about the resemblance between Kaitlyn and his daughter, and almost minutes after Kaitlyn tells us that Brad made her feel safe and how she now feels miserable with him gone, both Rodney and Kaitlyn break into a passionate kiss.

The case of the GBT Strangler is also resolved, but in the most unconvincing manner imaginable. This killer turns out to be a character known to Kaitlyn, but this subplot peters out. Why was this person killing GBT people? Move on, people, no answers here.

The characters at Kaitlyn’s radio station were often spoken of with their full names, on several occasions. The author seems to forget that we have already been introduced.

This tendency sounded faintly amusing in the case of a character called Justin Case. The repeated mentions sounded like Just In Case.

The narrator’s voice was flat and emotionless. The only time she seemed alive was when she was doing Kaitlyn’s radio voice. When speaking for Kaitlyn, it was boring, turning stilted and monotonous when voicing a male character.

There was plenty of swearing in this novel. That’s always a no-no for me.

Good thing: the chapters are short, and the whole audiobook a quick listen. 

(I read this book through NetGalley.)

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