Another discerning review from the Crime Scene Book Review Panel
When Homicide Detective Jacob Striker discovers that a string of recent suicides might actually be covered-up murders, his investigation quickly leads him to the Riverglen Mental Health Facility. The victims were all patients from the support group overseen by psychologist Dr Erich Ostermann. And when Striker discovers Larisa Logan – a dear friend of his, and a patient of Ostermann – has gone missing, his investigation goes into overdrive. Time is running out. And the evidence tells him one very important fact: that Larisa knows something about the murders.
It comes as no surprise that the author is a working Vancouver detective. This second outing for his creation (Jacob Striker) is laced with insider info and police procedural tidbits, although at times they are over-cooked and tend to detract from the pace of the story.
What cannot be faulted is Slater’s ability to weave a compelling yarn that takes you inside the minds of both the hunter and the hunted. There are some clever twists and turns, some moments of sheer panic, and some of those I-didn’t-see-that-coming kind of scenes that set good writers apart from the wannabees.
It’s when the author turns his attention to action that he’s at his best. He has a knack for gripping readers, making them buckle up for the ride, and keeping them turning pages until the end of the sequence. Sadly, these are spaced too few and too far between the tedium of cramming the day full of driving from one place to another, dropping off needless product-placement references, and demonstrating technical knowledge that is often unnecessary.
But enough of the gripes! Snakes & Ladders is a worthy read, as much for the intricacy of the characters as for the realistic challenges put before them. You can’t help getting quickly on the side of Striker, a world-weary detective who has as much to worry about in his private life as in his nine-to-fiver (actually he frequently racks up 16-hour days, but who’s counting?) Striker’s spats with authority are every bit as interesting as his tussles with the crazies, and there is plenty to engage the imagination in his on-off relationship with his female partner. The combination makes for a solid all-round package.
I liked this book a lot, but couldn’t shake the notion that if it were a hundred pages lighter it could have been stratospheric.
About The Author
Sean Slater is the pseudonym for Vancouver Police Officer Sean Sommerville who works in Canada’s poorest slum, the Downtown East Side – an area rife with poverty, mental illness, drug use, prostitution, and gang warfare.
Sommerville has written numerous columns and editorials for the city newspaper. His work has been nominated for the Rupert Hughes Prose Award, and he was the grand-prize winner of the Sunday Serial Thriller contest, which was co-written by Daniel Kalla and published in the Vancouver Province.
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