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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: Spectrum by Alan Jacobson

Finished November 1, 2014

Synopsis at Good Reads

New York City: home to world-renowned museums, theater, restaurants, iconic sports franchises. Central Park. Wall Street. And an infamous serial killer who’s terrorized the Big Apple for decades.

The year is 1995 and the NYPD has just graduated a promising new patrol officer named Karen Vail. The rookie’s first day on the job is anything but easy when she finds herself at the crime scene of a young woman murdered in an unusual manner. Vail is unsure of what she’s looking at or what it means—but it’s a case that will weigh on her mind for nearly twenty years.

As the years pass, Vail’s career takes unexpected twists and turns—as does the case that’s come to be known as Hades. Now a skilled FBI profiler, will Vail be in a better position to catch the killer? Or will Hades prove to be Karen Vail’s hell on earth?

The character who has captivated readers worldwide—and who won the praise of literary giants Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and Nelson DeMille—returns in a story that captures the experiences that shaped the revered profiler and made her the top cop she is today.

My review at Good Reads

4.95 of 5 stars

Behold the writer whose pen leaks? There was one chapter I felt a little awkward with. Alan Jacobson is not perfect. That feels odd to hear me admit. I still loved the book and Jacobson remains my favorite current author.

I'm not a fan of prequels. But this isn't a prequel. But it is. It starts and finishes in the current day but this is a case that been with Karen Vale her whole career.

I enjoyed the developing killer's story and the understandable foundation of what life events turned his mind. Vale's beginning as a rookie NYC cop who fast tracked into homicide met with discrimination in the good old boys network and she stepped on toes of those above her in rank who bucked change even when she was right. The eventual turning point for her professionally was given direction through networking with FBI agents at a class that gave her a path in when the work politics were applying a stranglehold on her career.

There was a segment about 9-11-01 that was very tastefully and not sensationally done. Vale, born in New York and working in the FBI office in New York City at that time was definitely involved in the events of that day, and blessed by the luck of circumstances like many were. It was an important part of Vale's life and well done; the world may have been falling apart and crime may have dropped significantly in the days after, but no common criminal or murderer foresaw a terrorist attack on American soil before the exact moment it happened and the work of common crime scenes still went on.

The only chapter I wasn't impressed with was the "cutting room floor" segment from inmate 1577. The scene from Alcatraz was there to show that the case from early in Vale’s career had always been part of her world, but if a reader had picked up Spectrum before reading the other books they'd be thrown into a segment of a case they knew nothing about and characters whose personalities are foreign to them. I had to stop and reread a page to get reoriented. I’m not sure why this particular reference to a case from another book felt awkward to me and others didn't.

I loved the end where the twists in the killer that's haunted the NYC police for over 20 years really start. I had an idea who I thought the killer was and I picked the right one but oh was I surprised to see how he did it and how he was shifting the blame that kept police frustrated for so long! I also give Alan Jacobson big props for blasting a current and real media stereotype witch-hunt concerning an illness they are too often eager to assign blame to for violence, showing how assumptions can make the ones who assume it cooperative pawns in a killer’s plan.

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