City of Lost Girls by Declan Hughes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"He wonders about the killing in threes, about the concept of the Three-in-One Killer. It is preposterous, on one level, like something from a comic book [...]"
Yet another crime novel with a promising setup that fizzles into a disappointing ending. This seems to be a rule these days with the bestsellers of the genre and I have a simple explanation: while the publisher can easily "sell" a book through blurbs that broadcast the enticing premise, for obvious reasons the failure of the ending can never be shown, and the reader becomes a victim of "false advertising." Or maybe I am the only one to get tired of struggling through books that promise so much in the beginning only to degenerate into a preposterous (the author's own word) mess towards the end.
Am I also the only reader tired of the "serial killers with patterns" in crime/mystery books? They have become a staple of the genre, so repetitive, so much like tens or hundreds of other books I have read that I am unable to distinguish one book from another - all of them are just slight variations of the basic template.
Am I also the only reader tired of the killer's monologues, obligatorily shown in italics, interspersed with the threads featuring the detectives or other characters? I have read hundreds of such books so there must be thousands and thousands of them. It feels like reading the same book, again and again and again.
City of Lost Girls (2010) by Declan Hughes is another installment in the Ed Loy series. The Irish private eye who previously worked in California returns to Dublin and is hired by the famous Irish movie director, Jack Donovan, to investigate nasty anonymous letters he has been receiving. Mr. Loy happens to know the director from Los Angeles, where Mr. Donovan was working on a movie. The importance of the letters soon fades when female extras begin to disappear from Mr. Donovan's movie set and Ed Loy recalls the still unexplained similar disappearances of extras in Los Angeles some 15 years earlier. When the detective quickly identifies the four possible suspects, all connected to the movie crew, the plot begins to lose energy and falls into boring, formulaic tracks. At about middle of the book I lost most of my interest and continued scanning pages to find out which additional clichés or convenient coincidences the author will employ.
The plot fiasco is especially painful because it is a well-written book. The author, a once recipient of the prestigious Shamus Award, is certainly a good writer. Early in the novel we have a great conversation between Ed Loy and the director's first wife. The woman comes alive from the pages of the dialogue, not an easy feat for crime novel authors most of whom seem to focus on the plot rather than on prose. Is Mr. Hughes really in such a need for money that he has to churn out books which he is unable to finish well?
Two stars, one for the author's potential and the other for this sad failure of a novel.
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