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I came across this in the library whilst searching for the next crime thriller fix, and was quite intrigued by the comments on the cover. Having never heard of Gross, the positive praise from Coben convinced me to give it a go, and the blurb on the back sounded decent enough. Unfortunately, I finished this book two days ago and can say it was a disappointment for me due to the writing style.
On the cover it reads '15 Seconds... Can tear a life apart'; it also tells us that this is 'The International Bestseller', as well as giving us a quote from Harlan Coben that reads 'A total white knuckle, stay-up-all-night thrill ride', to draw us in. This falls within the crime thriller genre, but I can't tell you much about the author or compare his work to other novels as this is the first piece of his I've picked up.
We're introduced to Dr Henry Steadman, a surgeon with a lot of quite admirable work under his belt. He does mostly cosmetic procedures, but his travels have also taken him to operate on those less fortunate in Nicaragua. He's an esteemed and respectable doctor, fresh off a plane as he's visiting North Carolina for a medical conference. Before the big speech he's due to give, he's lined up with a friend in the area to play a few rounds of golf. However, he's pulled over in his hire car for a traffic violation. The cop's rough and obviously in a bad mood, writing Steadman up for something he didn't do after seeing a small misdemeanour, definitely not demanding of the treatment he's getting. Then another car pulls up and shoots the cop. Steadman flees from the scene, giving chase but losing the suspect. Realising he's now the no1 suspect himself, he goes to a friend's house, but things only get worse. It looks like there are now two crimes he looks guilty of, and the cops are all over him, ready to shoot to kill the guy they think is a cop killer.
He liaises with his ex wife, Liz, and decides to call in the licence plate of the car he sees anonymously. He talks with Carrie Holmes, a community outreach worker, and sees some slight confidence in her that perhaps he isn't guilty, unlike everyone else who seems to be out for his blood. Things go from bad to worse for Steadman when it looks like his family, his daughter, are threatened. With nowhere to turn, no evidence and no idea why it looks like he's being set up, can Steadman do his own detective work and save both himself and his daughter before it's too late?
Meanwhile, there's a side story going on about a young woman high on drugs and completely out of it when her car careens off the road and kills a woman and her small child. The two stories start to evolve and diverge as the web of characters grows and the premise and possible explanations unfold. I don't say any more on the premise but that's pretty much the blurb. It's nothing too fanciful, more just a case of a whodunit and why, the case of a man presumed guilty but who believes he's being set up. There's nothing too demanding to gather from it particularly, so there aren't too many twists and turns as things can start to be pieced together by mid-way through the book.
However, the premise is still ok, and could have made for a decent enough read. What seemed to let it down, in my opinion, was the writing style. It seemed a little amateur, which surprised me having learned that Gross has actually written several novels. It was the way things came across, punctuated by the overuse of exclamation marks (!!!) that really dampened the atmosphere. What characters were saying just didn't feel serious, I didn't get the sense that it was a tense situation, that lives were on the line. I also didn't really get much in the way of feeling that Gross knew his stuff and was giving us a professional insight in o the investigation; whilst the protagonist wasn't a cop, there were elements of law enforcement etc that could have brought in a greater level of depth, realism and detail. I think Gross missed a beat with the book over all in terms of giving it a sense of down to earth believability; characters weren't palpable and whilst I could imagine the scenes, they didn't mesh to together to create a high impact atmosphere.
The other bug bear was with the ending. It seemed rather predictable and cliché; I was hoping for an element of surprise, something a little different, or at least something memorable. It seemed to weaken the enjoyment of the book overall and add to my sense of disappointment.
Strangely enough, one of the things that tempted me was the idea that other good authors thought highly of the book. Further praise on the back includes 'Fantastic, an absolute must-read' - Lee Child, and 'A sexy-as-hell thriller' - James Patterson. Unfortunately, I wouldn't really agree with these. It was ok, but pretty average. It didn't stand out for me even though it was easy enough to read; I wasn't gripped and at times struggled to read it because it didn't feel serious enough in tone, and the exclamation marks were a nightmare!!!!!!
Overall, this isn't one I'd give a glowing recommendation of. Perhaps Gross' other novels fare better than 15 Seconds, but it hasn't given me much confidence to want to try them unfortunately.
449 pages over 75 chapters plus epilogue