Pros: Somewhat interesting plot; semi-functional pacing
Cons: Inconsistent characterization; lack of chemistry between characters; only semi-functional pacing
Rating: 2 out of 5
Clearly when I pick up books off of the shelves at the library, I don’t put as much thought into my choices as I do when I buy books or request review copies. I’ve had some fairly poor luck with my library choices so far. The latest is Tara Moss’s Split, a thriller/mystery about Makedde Vanderwall, a model and forensic psychology student, survivor of a previous attack by a serial killer who yet again manages to get in over her head in all the wrong ways.
Mak’s old flame, Andy Flynn, an Australian detective who saved her from her previous encounter with a serial killer, has shown up unexpectedly at her university in Vancouver for a psychology conference she’s attending. While there, he and his colleague get drawn into helping the local RCMP with a serial killer case. Andy would like nothing better than to get together with Mak again, but she isn’t so sure that’s a good idea—besides, she’s just met a great guy, a security guard on campus, and he’d probably be much better for her. Of course, it doesn’t help things that her father and the rest of her family refuse to let her alone about the ‘incident’ in Sydney—her run-in with the serial killer—and insist that she should see a therapist, preferably the one her father is thinking about dating.
I’ll start with the good: the plot was reasonably interesting, and it certainly held my attention at times. Some of the characters were unusual and quirky, which was nice. Throughout most of the book I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened next.
However, Split broke down in a lot of ways. The characterization was inconsistent; sometimes I had trouble believing someone was the same person from scene to scene. The internal monologues were overlong and tedious, drawing out the various characters’ moping and wallowing until I just wanted to tell them to get over it and move the hell on. Most of the important parts of what came out during these bits could have been shown to us in much more interesting ways, through dialogue, action, and so on.
There was a distinct lack of chemistry between characters who needed it. I had difficulty believing that Mak and Andy were so irresistibly drawn to each other (not helped by the fact that Andy was a very one-dimensional character), and had almost as much difficulty believing that Mak and her new boyfriend were getting on so well. Side characters came and went with little reason; Mak’s sister—a truly obnoxious character who mostly made me want to stop reading the book—only served to annoy Mak for a scene and then vanished, never to return. Mak’s lesbian friend appeared partway through the book (after enough time had passed, frankly, that by the time she showed up I was shocked to find out Mak had any friends) and only stayed long enough to serve as the requisite shocking, funny, sex-crazed gay friend.
The interminable interior monologues marred the book in other ways as well. For one, they hid the fact that when you strip them away, there really isn’t a huge amount of plot to this book and very little mystery either. For another, they derailed the pacing at every opportunity, even during the climax of the book. Yes, the climax of this thriller/mystery got derailed by interior monologue. That’s about the worst thing you can do to a book of this genre; after all, you can commit many other sins, but you’ll be forgiven if you have a gripping climax. If not… Well.
I thought I would at least enjoy the various bits of psychology woven into the book since I’m a long-time student of the field, but it was introduced in such a dry manner that it didn’t particularly add anything and definitely marred the pacing.
This isn’t a horrid book, certainly not one of the worst I’ve read, but I don’t particularly recommend it either. Nothing about it is particularly interesting or gripping, and parts of it are downright boring—one of the last things you want to hear about a ‘thriller.’ And, oh yeah; maybe Canada is different, but no ethical psychologist I know of would professionally treat an immediate family member of someone she was dating or thinking of dating.