Book reviews, LGBT Books, Murder mystery

Book Review | Instinct (Murder Games)

instinct book review

by Howard Roughan and James Patterson — This book was the literary equivalent of being told to enjoy the view while travelling on the Shinkansen — a pointless and nausea inducing effort.

“Dr. Dylan Reinhart wrote the book on criminal behavior. Literally–he’s a renowned, bestselling Ivy League expert on the subject. When a copy of his book turns up at a gruesome murder scene–along with a threatening message from the killer–it looks like someone has been taking notes.

Elizabeth Needham is the headstrong and brilliant NYPD Detective in charge of the case who recruits Dylan to help investigate another souvenir left at the scene–a playing card. Another murder, another card–and now Dylan suspects that the cards aren’t a signature, they’re a deadly hint–pointing directly toward the next victim.

As tabloid headlines about the killer known as “The Dealer” scream from newstands, New York City descends into panic. With the cops at a loss, it’s up to Dylan to hunt down a serial killer unlike any the city has ever seen. Only someone with Dylan’s expertise can hope to go inside the mind of a criminal and convince The Dealer to lay down his cards. But after thinking like a criminal–could Dylan become one?”

If perhaps you are under the impression that the “nausea” has anything to do with grisly murders and gore a-plenty, I’m sorry do disappoint. I mean literal motion-sickness nausea, because this book doesn’t know when to take a breath. It’s so fast paced that absolutely no part of the plot has any chance to leave a lasting impression. The characters are like socks in a washing machine, powerless to do anything against the whirlwind that rinses and spins them (gently, though, because nothing of consequence ever happens to a main character in this kind of pulpy crime fiction).

I picked up this book by the graces of the Goodreads’ algorithm that analysed my twin interests in both murder mysteries and LGBT books, and spit out this: Instinct by James Patterson and Howard Roughan (Murder Games, in previous editions). Credit where credit is due, the book belongs to both of those categories, it just isn’t any good.

The protagonist, Dylan Reinhart is a wisecracking criminal behaviour expert. Riveting. The put upon detective who has to deal with said wisecracks  is Elizabeth Needham who is “headstrong and brilliant” and all too happy to play second fiddle in her own investigation, for no discernible reason. They are both terribly bland, I finished this book yesterday and I remember almost nothing about either of them.

Dylan has a husband, we find out his name through the most pointless, self-indulgent, “ain’t we funny”, scene I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. Dylan’s husband’s name is Tracy, and we find that out through the contrived actions of a disgruntled adoption agency representative, being confronted with the supposedly female name on her case file and the man in front of her. It was insufferable to read. It’s a lucky thing you can’t dislocate eyes, because I was rolling mine so hard it was a real concern at points. Ironically, the thing I liked best about this book was the representation. Cheesy scene aside — which I’m willing to attribute to a generational gap, older people might call it funny, anyone under 30 will call it cringy — I thought it was fine. There wasn’t much detail about Dylan and Tracy’s life, but they seemed believable enough. Tracy was a little thin at times, but all characters besides Dylan and Elizabeth (and even her…) were less developed.

By far my biggest gripe with this book was the pacing. Every chapter was at best 3 pages long, and each chapter ended either in a cliffhanger (the insufferable mid-dialogue kind, in which the conversation continues in the next chapter with absolutely no change of setting or tone) or with a witty one-liner that was reminiscent of early 00’s cartoons reminding you to tune in next week.

Most of the pertinent information Dylan and Elizabeth discover is the kind they have a hunch on, or some witness says something that lights the proverbial light bulb over their heads. What this means is that the reader has very little hope of figuring the mystery for themselves, because there aren’t any clues in the actual text, as a consequence the characters seem a lot more clever than they are. The ending does tie things up in a bow and call back to previous events, which makes it marginally more satisfying than the entire book up until then.

I finished this book before having time to digest half the things that were happening. It’s completely unremarkable and I’m fairly sure I’ll have forgotten everything about it by next week. I recommend it to everyone who is about to embark on a long-haul flight, because the break-neck pace is sure to make it go by faster.

Rating: 2 stars
Authors: Howard Roughan and James Patterson
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company

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