Book Review: Killing Pretty

My next post’ll be about writing stuff. But right now, I have a stack of books I have to finish before November, otherwise I won’t be able to read them until December, and they’re library books.

So I’m reading.

indexA note about today’s selection. It’s the seventh book of a favorite series of mine. I will try to limit spoilers about the previous books, but I can’t avoid them entirely. Fair warning.

So as a quick, completely spoiler free, recommendation: love the series, particularly the first six books, so you should check them out, but this one feels like a letdown after the previous book. I’d wait to read it after the next book releases, assuming there is a next book.

Book’s blurb follows the break.

Sandman Slim investigates Death’s death in this hip, propulsive urban fantasy through a phantasmagoric LA rife with murder, mayhem, and magic.

James Stark has met his share of demons and angels, on earth and beyond. Now, he’s come face to face with the one entity few care to meet: Death.

Someone has tried to kill Death—ripping the heart right out of him—or rather the body he’s inhabiting. Death needs Sandman Slim’s help: he believes anyone who can beat Lucifer and the old gods at their own game is the only one who can solve his murder.

Stark follows a sordid trail deep into LA’s subterranean world, from vampire-infested nightclubs to talent agencies specializing in mad ghosts, from Weimar Republic mystical societies to sleazy supernatural underground fight and sex clubs. Along the way he meets a mysterious girl—distinguished by a pair of graveyard eyes—as badass as Slim: she happens to be the only person who ever outwitted Death. But escaping her demise has had dire consequences for the rest of the world . . . and a few others.

For years, Slim has been fighting cosmic forces bent on destroying Heaven, Hell, and Earth. This time, the battle is right here on the gritty streets of the City of Angels, where a very clever, very ballsy killer lies in wait.

In terms of the feel of this book, it was a fun read. Like most of the Sandman books, once I got started, I just had to keep going. We had to get to the next scene, get to the next fight, get to the next moment where Stark just goes off. All in all, it read a lot like what we’re used to, so in the moment, it was fun.  I mean, what isn’t to love about a plot where you’re facing off against Death to help Death?

The issue is what came after, and here’s where I have to divulge in spoilers.

See, the previous book, The Getaway God, dealt with the end of the major arc that was built up from the beginning. Everything Stark dealt with, even his initial casting into Hell, was part of that plot. The pieces got put together, slowly and inexorably, until we had the final showdown. And the whole thing ends on a bittersweet note. They’ve won, at great cost, but their lives are moving on and in seemingly positive ways. And we even get a teaser for what his next case will be.

As a story ender for a guy as rough as Stark, it felt pretty perfect to me. You could pick it up if you wanted, but he’s not the guy who gets an absolutely perfect ending. He’s the guy who just keeps going.

This book, though, is the immediate follow up. It picks up that teaser case, and attempts to show the aftermath of the previous arc while trying to build into a new arc. And that may be the problem. Since it picks up right after, Stark hasn’t been given time to really process and grow. And, honestly, after everything he’s been through, and the mistakes he’s made and tried to learn from, it really felt like he needed to. There were a number of times where I felt that his responses were being decided to allow the series to continue, and not necessarily because that’s what the character wanted, and that was for time where he was trying to grow as well. Stark felt like he was being jerky, and since he’s the narrator, it means that the story felt rough from that aspect.

The other problem was with the overall plot itself. Not with the book plot, but with the arc plot. The issue here is what I’d consider the Doctor Who problem. What do I mean? Well, we went from a series that had lots of clues and indicators towards the overall plot, like when Davies was directing the current Doctor Who, to one that gave you the episode’s plot and then threw in the major clue to what will be the season’s arc at the end of the episode, like Moffat. The first one keeps you fascinated with the overall plot, keeps you guessing and wondering because everything’s tied together. The second feels like a cop out to me. Like you can’t be bothered. And it doesn’t help that the new antagonist is a little underwhelming compared to the old.

What does that last bit tell me as a writer? That I need to make sure that I have my plot lines in order for continuing series. That I know what I want to do, and how far I want to take it. That if I’m going to have villains play as long a game as the current villains indicate they do, then I need to be playing that long game too so my readers will buy it.

Because while this book is a fun read, it doesn’t feel like a successful ending or a successful beginning. I don’t like where the characters are at, but neither am I burning with curiosity as to what will happen next like I was with previous books.

Overall, this book is a meh for me. It’s enjoyable in the moment, but doesn’t represent its series very well.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Killing Pretty

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