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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: A Choice of Darkness (Major Crimes Task Force #1) by Jon D. Kurtz

Finished October 6, 2015

Synopsis at Good Reads

For millennia philosophers have explained the nature of the world in terms of dualities, such as masculine and feminine and fire and water. As a new year dawns over the capital city of Pennsylvania, far more ominous examples come to mind. The media debates the concept in terms of good and evil. A killer perceives it as a struggle between the light and the darkness. For members of the state's newest criminal task force, it's a matter of life and death.

Under cover of night, he trawls the streets of Harrisburg, relentlessly searching for answers to questions formed in a mind damaged by nature and a traumatic childhood. In his wake he leaves the lifeless bodies of his victims, each lovingly posed beneath a synthetic yellow blanket, the same type used by police and emergency personnel.

Venturing into the shadows, a diverse team of investigators quickly realizes little time remains before the killer chooses his next victim. Forced to navigate the fickle waters of inter-agency relations, lacking the trust of the community they seek to protect, and used as pawns in a political game of chess, the task force races to decipher actions spawned in a mind gripped by psychosis. Yet, their greatest challenge will not be external. Years of battling criminals, comforting victims, and living life leave scars. Hidden behind the stoic facade, even the most indomitable investigator faces demons.

Good or bad, cop or criminal, choices will be made. And with choices come consequences, some temporary, some lasting, and others…eternal.


My review at Good Reads
2 of 5 stars

The book started okay but by the time it was done my head felt like it might explode! This was a new author’s first book and I just felt like he was trying to tell every possible associated story in minute detail. It wound up feeling just overdone.

I’m not sure if the book was written as a thriller, an introduction to the task force or a probe into a killer’s mind. There was a lot of time spent in the killer’s mind; what planted the seed, how his psychotic mind works and what motivates him. The reader knew what he’d do and why almost before he even did it, so it’s definitely not a mystery.

Then there’s the main character; a cop who has been given the role of forming and leading a new special task force while he’s still dealing with his own mental demons of life after his wife’s passing five years ago. It’s not even presented as a strong subplot, yet while he was assessing a potential lead his mind broke into a enthralled like a schoolgirl daydream about kissing a woman the night before. I’ve never been involved in something big at work and drifted off to thinking about my romantic life, in fact a project at work has more often worked for forgetting a romantic situation. Maybe obsessing about one’s love life at work is a guy-thing I don’t know about.

There were many places where things were over-explained. If the book is in the killer’s mind, I don’t need an additional narrative telling me what society thinks is normal. As the reader, I AM society. I know what’s normal and understand that his thinking is not acceptable.

The story was slow and the end was worse. I think in the end there was a chase scene. I think it was after a twist in the plot where the killer became mentally clouded in a different way and it was a shocking total change. The writing was in many characters’ minds and the mental explanations were more detailed than what was actually happening. That lessened the action and the intensity of what I think was supposed to be the book’s climax. There were multiple points where the story could have ended but jumped back in and went further. It became less believable as it went on. After switching gears between thriller, psychology text and personality study throughout the book, it moved into a spiritual story describing things in a way that just didn’t fit with the way the rest of the book was written.

It finished with an epilogue that basically told you that the police never did figure out as much as the reader does. The epilogue was basically a wrap up of the things other books leave out because they aren’t necessary. I was surprised to see an epilogue because the book seemed like it had already ended. After reading the epilogue, I still wondered why it was there.

A Choice of Darkness didn’t leave me soured on a new author, but it didn’t leave me with an anxious desire to read Book #2 either.

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