Kill Switch contains the important elements we want in a crime story—a likeable main character, compelling back-stories, a sad tale of woe for our bad guy, the desperate and insidious crimes against humanity perpetrated by those who are entrusted to heal the world.
From the publicity info:
Kill Switch is the first of a series featuring Dr. Claire Waters, a brilliant, young forensic psychiatrist with unnervingly personal insights into the criminal mind. Haunted by a disturbing childhood incident in which her best friend was abducted and never found, Claire has always been drawn to those rare ‘untreatable’ patients who seem to have no conscience or fear. She has a natural ability to put people at ease, to draw out their darkest secrets, and she believes that by understanding what motivates violent criminals, she can help prevent them from committing further crimes. But one shocking case could make or break her career—and it’s waiting for her in the psychiatric wing of New York City’s Rikers Island.”
Kill Switch is authored by two heavy hitters in the television industry: Neal Baer, former executive producer and showrunner of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, executive producer of ER (“the longest-running primetime medical drama in American television history”), multi-award winner (Emmy, Golden Globe, People’s Choice, and Edgar), and graduate of Harvard Medical School; and Jonathan Greene, writer and co-executive producer of Law & Order: SVU and now writer/co-executive producer for CBS’s A Gifted Man (starring Patrick Wilson of Little Children fame). Phew! So many credentials, so little space. These two men are clearly accomplished in their fields—they have nothing to prove to anyone.
Except me. And that is because I am a consumer of books, and they have crossed into my territory, away from the television screen, away from the tidy conundrums presented to their characters who have 44 minutes or less to tie things up. Books are a different world than TV.
Baer and Greene know how to weave a good story, to start fires, let them burn for a while, and then summarily extinguish said fires within the confines of 289 pages. The characters they’ve built—Dr. Claire Waters, NYPD detective Nick Lawler, resident bad guy Todd Quimby—these folks are believable. I read the book over a few hours, which says a lot to the facility of language. It is writing for Every Man. You won’t have to pull out your dictionary or take huge leaps of faith to understand what is going on in the novel. This is a standard police procedural where the cops are gritty, the bad guys are heinous, and the good guy always gets his man. Baer and Greene, for all their impressive credentials, aren’t quite Walter Mosley, a man who spins crime noir into a ballet for the senses, but I don’t feel robbed of the time I spent reading the story, either.
One thing I will say—I gotta hand it to crime writers, for their ability to stitch and tangle storylines, and then un-weave them again as we slide into home plate. That takes skill, and it’s obvious in Kill Switch that the writers are accustomed to penning stories for the television audience. The dialogue is, at times, campy, yet there are ample forks in the road where you find yourself saying, “Oh, that guy is not who they think he is” and “Don’t trust him! He’s lying!” I appreciate it when a writer, or writers, in this case, can lead me along one trail while building a separate adjacent trail that I will inevitably jump onto. I’m no dummy—I’ve watched enough TV, seen enough movies to know when I’m being led astray. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or in the case of this book, a forensic psychiatrist, to figure out that 1+1 does not equal 3.
I have to be careful to not throw out spoilers here, but a few sticky points that didn’t come across as altogether realistic: a newbie psychiatrist interviewing a mentally ill patient with lots of mommy issues, would not chop off all her hair, bleach it blond, and dress in the style of the party who last offended the patient, just to goad the patient into some sort of recall of repressed memories (can you imagine the liability?); the debilitating eye disease that afflicts one of the central characters likely would’ve come on sooner in his life, unless I’ve misunderstood the character’s age; and if lymphoma were attached to a virus, making it as easily transmissible as mono, it would take a hell of a lot more than a Molotov cocktail to kill it.
These are the stretches we are accustomed to taking when watching TV, and that is why, even had I not known in the beginning that Baer and Greene were TV writers, I would’ve figured it out soon enough. Then again, vampires and werewolves and boy wizards aren’t real, either. A good story is a good story.
The first thirty pages or so felt a bit like Silence of the Lambs, and there are those moments when I questioned how Claire recovered so quickly from the various traumas she suffers in the latter stages of the book. Yet, Kill Switch contains the important elements we want in a crime story—a likeable main character, compelling back-stories, a sad tale of woe for our bad guy, the desperate, insidious crimes against humanity perpetrated by those who are entrusted to heal the world. We’ve got suspense, we’ve got cops, we’ve got a sprinkling of sexual tension I gather the writers will build upon in later tomes, and we’ve got forensics. Not a bad mix at all.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners!