Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Velocity by Alan Jacobson

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Vanguard Press
Detective Robby Hernandez, Karen Vail’s boyfriend, has vanished into the dense air of a Napa Valley evening. There are no clues to his whereabouts, other than a blood stain and tenuous connections to a vicious serial killer operating in the wine country.

As the task force struggles with Robby’s disappearance, the killer challenges Vail by boldly leaving his high profile victims in public places. Is this offender somehow responsible for Robby’s disappearance? Evidence suggests that he is—but just when Vail and the task force begin to make progress, the FBI orders Vail to return to Quantico to handle a case of vital importance.

Back in Washington, Vail engages covert government operative Hector DeSantos to determine what happened to Robby. It’s a move that backfires when DeSantos’s confidential informants lead them into unforeseen dangers, forcing Vail to face off against powerful foes unlike any she’s ever encountered, threatening her life, her career . . . all that she holds dear.

In a frantic race against time that takes them from the monuments of Washington, D.C., to the wealthy beach enclaves of San Diego and the bright excesses of Las Vegas, shocking truths emerge—truths that will forever change Karen Vail.

Reviewing this book has me in a bit of a quandary. There was so much happening throughout that at times it felt like my head was spinning. The books starts off, apparently, exactly where the last book finished. It would have been hugely helpful to have read the other books before. The other issue it presented was a kind of unreal time frame where the previous Karen Vail books  (4 of them) all seem to have occurred during a very short period of time. It appears Vail was having a pretty crappy month or so, catching serial killers and helping to take down drug cartels all while looking for her missing boyfriend.

Then there was how the book was written. At times, it felt like an instruction manual for all manner of law enforcement. This did help in explaining terms that would be used throughout but at times felt more educational than entertaining. To put a positive spin on this aspect, it adds more credence to the story, making it more like true FBI, DEA, etc. work than the abbreviated versions we see on TV. From the extensive list of acknowledgements, it is easy to see that Alan Jacobson really does his homework.

All of that being said, the book kept my attention. The action maintained a constant pace and really made me want to continute reading. There were so many facets at play and so many characters involved that there was always something happening. I think it was a bit forced in trying to make everything connect in Vail's life...surely one woman can't be that unlucky?! With the ending, I'm not sure if this is the last we see of Karen Vail but by the conclusion I liked the characters involved, with the exception of Hector DeSantos whose 'If I told you, I'd have to kill you' routine leaned towards cheesiness. I would still be interested in reading the previous books to get a better feel for the overall picture.

If you are a fan of Criminal Minds on TV and/or Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, (which I am, of both) then Velocity has a similar feel. Though a bit overwhelming with information at times, I did enjoy the story overall.


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