Review: “Spectrum,” Alan Jacobson

Pros: Nice mystery with good twists, turns, and tensions
Cons: Really confusing PoV; jumps around a lot in time
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review e-book provided by Open Road Integrated Media
Expected release date: October 7, 2014


Description from promotional materials:

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.

Spectrum (The Karen Vail Series Book 6), by Alan Jacobson, is a part of his Karen Vail series. She’s a celebrated profiler, but before she joined the FBI she was a New York City cop. There she encountered a seemingly unsolvable serial killer mystery, the case that got her interested in profiling to begin with. Spectrum covers the entire time frame from her first rookie days until the case comes to a head a couple of decades later. It also covers the ups and downs of a family–in parallel with the cops’ work even though it came much earlier in time. I found this confusing and frustrating. Wait… she married whom? There was a divorce in there somewhere? Really? Who’s this new detective? And then… Agh. It was particularly difficult because the narrative would jump years at a time.

There’s one thing I found even more confusing than the wacky time jumps. That is, the narrative is in third person, but Karen’s thoughts are continually injected in first person. Normally if someone did this they’d at least italicize the thoughts to set them off. Instead I had to constantly backtrack to figure out whether I was reading internal dialogue or just dialogue. Note however that this is an advance copy, so my fingers are crossed that this might be fixed by publication; there was a lot of it and the book is getting released soon, though, so I’m dubious.

I really enjoyed the characters. There are inevitable problems at first due to Karen’s gender; although I understand that this was appropriate to the depicted time period, it was also frustrating. I did enjoy watching as some of the people around Karen gradually came to see her as something other than just her gender. Those characters that made it through the entire long course of the book were good. There was some depth, and some fun banter.

The hunt for the killer (once it caught up with the present day) held plenty of tension, some good red herrings, and enjoyable reveals. There’s a great chase scene that pulled me in quite well, with some nifty use of modern gadgets.

The organization of Spectrum really threw me for a loop, but the story is excellent.

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