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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stripped by Brian Freeman

This is book #2 in the Johnathan Stride mysteries by Brian Freeman, read on audiobook. 

The Barnes & Noble Review (from When it comes to Brian Freeman's second thriller, Stripped (sequel to 2005's Edgar Award–nominated Immoral), the slogan "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" couldn't be more fitting. Set amid the innumerable depravities of Sin City -- sex, drugs, gambling, organized crime, etc. -- the novel's very first line gives readers a pretty good indication of the debauchery to come: "She slipped the robe off her shoulders, and the white silk gathered in a pool of accordion folds at her feet..."

Protagonist Jonathan Stride -- a former Duluth police lieutenant who followed his girlfriend to Vegas and is now working as an LVPD homicide investigator -- is finding it hard to adapt to his neon-lit, surgically enhanced, completely superficial surroundings. The culture shock even extends to his partner on the job, Amanda Gillen, a non-operative transsexual (who is arguably the most grounded character in the novel!). While Stride's cop girlfriend, Serena Dial, investigates the hit-and-run death of a young boy, he struggles to unravel the bizarre murder of a rich socialite named M. J. Lane -- whose claim to fame, besides being the son of a billionaire producer, is starring in his own homemade porn flick. As they dig deeper, they begin to realize that the two cases have tenuous connections to the Scheherazade casino in 1967 -- specifically the brutal murder of an ambitious starlet that was never fully resolved. Meanwhile, a cunning serial killer is loose on the Strip.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I have been to Las Vegas twice and I could feel from the pages the scorching heat, the dry air, the sun beating mercilessly down, the hot dry nights where the air conditioning only seems to make noise and loudly at that.  As a Minnesotan I can relate to what it's like to be standing on the pavement at noon when the temp is 106* (which, just for the record, this particular Minnesota loved). 

However, I came across a few "issues" with this book.  Not in any particular order:  

As the plot progresses, Stride and Dial find that they need to protect a key witness.  Serena is put in charge of Claire's protection.   What ends up happening is Serena locks herself into her town home.  There is no backup for Serena guarding Claire.  No cop outside, no cop hiding across the street, no additional security force IN the house.  Piss poor planning IMO.  You, smart reader, can guess what happens...

Additionally, wouldn't it have made more sense to get Claire out of town?  Put her up in a hotel with a security team?  Probably, but then we wouldn't have had every man's wet dream happen....

Again,  Boney (Claire's very rich Daddy) claims earlier in the story to have Claire trailed with his own security team.  So, where the hell are they when she is nabbed in the Casino?  When Claire and Dial are at her town home, "hiding", without police back up? You, smart reader, can guess what happens...

At one point in the book we have our good hero climbing down a rusty ladder with gun in hand.  If you don't see what's going to happen you aren't reading closely enough...  IF you climb down a 30 year old rusty ladder with a gun in your hand - you will drop the gun.  And OMG! Stride dropped the frikkin' gun climbing down a rusty ladder!  Duh.

At another point in the book we have the entire police force gathered (except Serena, who's guarding Claire without any backup) and Stride figures out the bad guy is going for Serena and Claire and runs for his truck.  With no back up.  Why didn't Stride grab Corty (Serena's partner) for help?   Even a backup of one would have been a good idea.  And nobody questioned Stride just bolting from the rest of the force?  Right....

And one of my main beefs - more endings than Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But not much.  LOTR:RotK had something like seven.  This wasn't far off and I detest it when the author keeps dragging things out. 

So, I do recommend this book, but I wonder why some of the above items weren't caught in earlier proofing.  Now granted, perhaps they were and dismissed in favor of moving the plot along, but they jarred me out of the story with the inconsistencies.  Meanwhile, Stalked, book number three, is in the iTunes!

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