Review: Lee Emory's thriller Night Freeze has all the elements of a classic serial killer mystery. Detective Niall Malone is called to Kansas City to investigate a disturbing series of murders that are tied together by the presence of a "US Marines" stamp on each of the victims. Despite obstacles such as a distrustful team of coworkers and some severe injuries that he has sustained en-route, Malone quickly discovers that the crimes are linked to Medical Examiner Dr. Shyla Clifford. Soon Clifford's family and friends are disappearing at an alarming rate and turning up in several gory pieces, each death fueling and intensifying the hunt for the killer.
Emory's writing is fast-paced, proceeding almost without pause from crime to crime. From the first page, the plot doesn't slow for even a moment from beginning to end. While readers are certainly kept at the edge of their seats, the steady flow of action becomes a bit overpowering.
Likewise, Emory is clearly interested in the psychology of her serial killer, spending almost equal time following his thoughts and actions as her detectives. The emphasis on following the killer so closely, combined with the rate at which murders pile up, fills the book with many unnecessary, very graphic scenes of violence that sometimes seem to almost receive more attention than the work of solving the crime. These extremely disturbing scenes make the book difficult for those who don't enjoy gore and horror, but may grip fans of this kind of graphic violence. In the end, however, readers are left wondering if Emory is more interested in writing about her killer's crimes or the hero's efforts to solve them.
This impression is reinforced by the lack of progress that Emory's detectives seem to make for most of the book, and any mystery reader with a passing knowledge of crime-scene procedure will wince at the way some clues are mishandled. Readers already know the killer's location, and may grow frustrated as detectives seem to miss obvious hints and his connections to Dr. Clifford's past. Instead of a satisfying puzzle, solving the case mostly involves waiting for the detectives to put together what is already clear to the reader, while more and more of Clifford's family graphically falls victim.
From the beginning, Emory spends a great deal of time developing and creating believable characters. This work pays off especially in her development of Dr. Clifford and Detective Malone, although the book's action tends to sometimes overshadow these efforts. Understandably, Emory also has trouble creating a convincing emotional response for Dr. Clifford as her loved ones are murdered, a problem compounded by her decision to introduce a bit of romance at this unusual point. Emory also seems to have trouble establishing a firm voice for any of her characters, and despite their in-depth development they seem less "real" for this reason.
Night Freeze is action-packed and exciting, but ultimately fails to create a convincing and fully enjoyable picture. The graphic nature of many scenes will turn some readers away from this book immediately, while others may become less interested in the thriller plot as its well-drawn characters take a backseat to all the action. Lovers of classic mysteries will undoubtedly be frustrated by the lack of ingenuity from Emory's detectives in the course of solving the case. Night Freeze ultimately fails to utilize many of the strengths in its writing, relying instead on action and violence to carry the plot.
Special thanks to Rebecca Henderson for contributing her review of Night Freeze.
Acknowledgment: Author Marketing Experts provided a copy of Night Freeze for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Rebecca Henderson — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Location(s) referenced in Night Freeze: Phoenix, Arizona
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Night Freeze by Lee Emory
Publisher: Treble Heart Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $13.50
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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