Thursday, October 30, 2008

book review: "hell bent"*

I like fast-paced mystery novels that grab my attention from the first page and sustain my interest until the end.

I like books that are well written and that entertain without offending me and that use characters to move a story forward without resorting to stereotype.

And I like suspense novels that surprise me without stretching the bounds of credulity to their absolute limit (there is only so much disbelief I am capable of suspending).

On all of these fronts, Hell Bent, by William G. Taply delivers.
"Boston attorney Brady Coyne finds his own past coming back to haunt his professional life when his ex-girlfriend Alex Sinclair wants him to represent her brother. Augustine Sinclair was a notable photo-journalist, happily married with two small children - until he returned from a stint in Iraq, missing a hand and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now he's lost his career, his peace of mind and his family. Brady is hired to see him through the divorce but before they get very far, the photographer is found dead in his rented apartment, an apparent suicide.
But something isn't right and Brady starts to think the suicide is staged. With very little to go on and everyone around him wanting to close the books on the case, Brady soon finds himself in the midst of one of the most dangerous situations of his entire life, facing people who will do anything to avoid being exposed."
As a mystery novel, Hell Bent was highly entertaining, a real page turner that kept my interest. It's well written, with interesting characters and unexpected plot twists.

As a central character, though, Brady Coyne is just too perfect. He prefers to represent underdogs, is pining faithfully for the long-term girlfriend who left him four months earlier (despite the fact that she won't let him call her and leaves him messages telling him to move on) and has a stated weakness for strong, smart women:
"I liked feisty, independent, competent, autonomous, self-contained women. I liked women who knew what they wanted and went after it. I liked women who thought they were at least as important and capable and valuable as men."
Women all seem to be vulnerable to his charms (every woman in the book is described in considerable physical detail and they almost all seem to be beautiful) and men want to be his friend.

He is also modest, self-deprecating and fairly self-critical.

And he is very loyal and attached to his dog, Henry.

Brady Coyne is just too good to be true.

I like flawed characters. I like protagonists who screw up but are essentially well-meaning and good hearted.

This is especially true for mysteries which have an inherent element of good versus evil. When good is too good, it can get just a touch, well, boring.

But really, that's just a quibble (and this one that is leagues better than the mystery novels with a hard boiled detective and the inevitable blond, bosomy bimbo who is the secretary/victim/murderess).

I liked Hell Bent. And if you like well-written, fast-paced mysteries, with progressive politics and interesting characters, you will too.

*This is a review of a book that was sent to me via Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.

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