My local Oxfam sells 5 books for £1.49 and being a cheapskate if I can only find four books I want to read, I'll pick up any old fifth book just to get my moneysworth. I have to say, though, that I've discovered some pretty good books this way and it's put me onto authors I've never come across before. Unfortunately, Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper is not such a book.
Glenn Cooper is an American writer. He originally gained a degree in archaeology from Harvard before studing medicine. He has worked as the CEO of a biotechnology company, a screen writer and film producer before turning his hand to novel writing. Library of the Dead is his first novel.
A murderer, nicknamed by the New York press as the Doomsday Killer, has killed six people in two weeks and the FBI are baffled. They're finding it impossible to profile the killer and neither can they find any clues which link the six victims to each other, except for the fact that prior to their murders, each had received a postcard bearing the date of their death. The city is terrified and in desperation the FBI assign the case to Will Piper. Will is a maverick who once worked as the Bureau's top expert on serial killers but is now going through a crisis of his own. Will andhis newly assigned partner, Nancy, soon finds themselves emersed in the case never expecting to unearth a secret which has been closely guarded for centuries.
Having read the blurb on the back of this book, I was expecting something in the vein of the Da Vinci Code and eventually that is what it turn into although there this is written in a completely different style and begins with a crime which at first seems totally unrelated.
The novel begins on 21 May 2009 when the Doomsday Killer's latest victim has received a postcard bearing the date 22 May 2009 with a picture resembling a coffin drawn alongside the date. David Swisher is puzzled but only slightly disturbed until out walking his dog past midnight, he's attacked by the sender of the postcard. Later that same day, another victim is claimed. Will Piper is called in to investigate by his boss, Susan Sanchez.
Will is 48, his latest girlfriend has left him, he drinks too much and his career is on the skids. He's partnered on the case with Nancy Lipinski who's at the start of her career and all eager enthusiasm.
The chapters all begin with a dateline and these jump about from the present day to World War Two and then back to the present before jumping off again to Roman Britain and to a medieval monastery on the Isle of Wight. All of this was pretty confusing to begin with but eventually begins to make some kind of sense and as the story progressed, it became obvious that this was turning into another religious mystery Da Vinci Code clone, although not one that was quite as gripping.
Unlike many others who read it, I quite enjoyed the Da Vinci Code and thought the possibility that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and fathered a child was perfectly feasible. However, the religious mystery in this book is much less believable and, if I'm honest, was downright ridiculous.
I found it hard to finish this book, not just because I found the mystery fairly uninspiring but I also didn't like any of the book's main protagonists either Will Piper is a drunken and egotistical slob and I found it totally unbelievable that Nancy, a woman a couple of decades younger, would find him even remotely attractive. He's described as having been once handsome but running to seed and he certainly didn't come off the page like any kind of romantic catch but more as a huge liability! It was also difficult to understand why his boss would have assigned this case to him because they are well aware that he's just marking time before he's retired from the Bureau.
Nancy, too, was just a bit too naive for someone working for the FBI, albeit a fairly new recruit. I would have imagined that the FBI would only pick candidates who demonstrated at least some modicum of savvy and Nancy had absolutely none. And as for the Doomsday Killer, no surprises there either. He was pretty to easy to spot quite early on in the narrative and was very much of the cardboard cutout variety.
All told, I found this book to be very disappointing and I almost resented the amount of time I spent on it when I could have been absorbed in reading something so much more entertaining and better written. It wasn't totally bad and I did manage to finish it in the end, although I never had any problem putting the book down in order to do other things. If you enjoy religious thrillers, you may well like this one too but for me, it was all a tad mediocre.
Retailing for £4.52 new or used from 1p from Amazon.
The first book from newly established author, Glenn Cooper is a brilliant and captivating read.
FBI agent Will Piper is on the trail of the Doomsday Killer, a serial murderer who sends postcards to victims on the day of their death. As the deaths start to pile up, Will must delve deeper into this bizarre case.
The first few pages nearly put me off, a single troublesome yet good looking FBI agent hero who likes his booze... blah blah blah for me Will Piper couldnt get much more cheesey and cliched. I could see the story mapping out - he gets the killer after a climatic duel and getting the girl - all that jazz. However, I ignored my initial cynicism and read on...
As the story unfolds I soon discovered that this story was far more than just a detective on the hunt for a serial killer, it is a story with two timelines which at first seem irrelevant to one another yet a few pages later the reader manages to tie a few connections together and before you know it you're hooked on this book!
I really liked the archaic feel of this book, a lot of books at the moment are feeding off of Dan Brown's success by having modern day stories that trace back to historical events causing a bit of controversy along the way, however this book is different. The story delves back in time to significant events that later help explain the mysteries in this book with a few twists along the way.
The last few chapters were a blur to me as I raced towards finding out more of this story. The more sensible side of me suggested I should savour such a book but the more excited, impatient side of me overpowered that urge and I soon completed this book within two days. As soon as I put the book down, satisfied, I immediately regretted rushing through this rare book of adventure, crime and mystery and wished I had taken it slower.
Alas, at least the sequel to this book, Book of Souls is released in early February so I can quench my thirst once more soon. No doubt I will rush through that one even quicker, stay tuned for the review of that book, it's on pre order!
'Library Of The Dead' is Glenn Cooper's first novel. Glenn has a degree in archaeology, which is put to some use in the storyline of this book.
There is a spate of murders that have been happening in New York. The murderer has been nicknamed the 'Doomsday Killer'. Six people have been killed in two weeks. Each one of the victims has received a postcard before they died. On the postcard is a date and a hand drawn picture of a coffin. Each victim dies on the date stated on the postcard.
The FBI assigns Will Piper, an FBI agent who is an expert on serial killers, to the case. He on the other hand does not want to take the case on, as he is nearing to retirement and wants to leave the FBI 'smoothly'. He is partnered with Nancy Lipinski, who is fairly new recruit for the FBI. You soon find out that Will is an alcoholic and is a womaniser. Nancy is a new recruit and is eager to learn all that she can and not bend the rules. They are opposite ends of the spectrum.
As Will and Nancy work on the 'Doomsday Killer' case it takes them on a journey which uncovers a secret that has been guarded by the American government for decades, into the secretive Area 51, secrets of a eighth century abbey on the Isle of Wight and back to Will's college days.
When I first spotted this book in Tesco I immediately thought that's for me! The description was of a book that I would be the first to pick up and read.
I was not that impressed by the first half of the book, which I found was a disappointment. It is true; you are thrown into the story straight away with the first killing. After the first chapter I thought that this was going to be a great read, but then things started to get stale. I found the chapters, which were not long, were a little bit of a chore. My eyes were flickering to page opposite when I was supposed to be concentrating on the page that I had just turned to! The chapters started to feel a little drawn out and I was unsure of Cooper's direction with the story.
As I got halfway through the book, then the pace started to pick up for me, and the story was coming into bloom! More facts were being told, the fluency came together and the mental picture that you can forge in your mind when reading a book, was no longer covered in fog!
Just one more thing. I was not that convinced by some of the actions of the characters. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I won't go in depth, but some of the actions of the characters i.e. who they bond with, how they react to various circumstances didn't really ring true with me. I felt their actions were false.
I have to say that if you persevere with this you will end up reading a good novel. It has a really good storyline and when you get past the first few (or so) chapters you can really start to appreciate the knowledge that Cooper has included in this novel and the fluency of writing that the chapters start to appear in. You are able to see where Cooper's degree in archaeology came into use.
New York 2009 and a murderer nicknamed the Doomsday Killer has claimed six victims in just two weeks. The police are baffled; none of the victims have anything in common with each other, the only thing that connects them to the same killer is that all the victims have received a creepy postcard in the days before their deaths. The postcard, with a crude drawing of a coffin, announced the date of their deaths.
Struggling to come up with any results, they pull in Agent Will Piper an expert when it comes to serial killers. Will's search takes him in a direction he could never have imagined, uncovering an ancient old secret, an underground library belonging to an eighth century monastery. Only a select few know its secrets - and Will soon finds out that these people want it to stay that way whatever the cost.
The story of the Doomsday Killer doesn't take long to get started, from the first page, we are introduced to victim number one. Knowing what will happen to him once he receives the post card was quite interesting, I felt tense throughout his proposed "death" day; wondering when it was going to happen and if it could have been avoided. When it did happen, I found myself thinking how ordinary it was and how this serial killers style was going to make me as interested throughout the book.
My slight disappointment with the first murder was further cemented by my annoyance at the main character, Will Piper. Agent Will Piper is described as a bit of a maverick; a couple of years off of retirement and at the brink of losing it all together. A serial womaniser and drinker, he's been demoted and removed from high profile cases due to him conducting a relationship with a female colleague. I find it is virtually impossible (as, I would imagine, would be the case with most readers) to connect with a character if they have massive character flaws that clash directly with my own points of view on life and this is exactly what happened with Agent Piper. My dislike of him began to blossom when he displayed dislike and almost disgust of some female body shapes. For instance, when talking about his partner (at work!) Nancy, he says:
"She was pint-sized, five feet three inches in stocking feet, but Will's assessment was that she needed to drop some pounds everywhere," followed later by a stronger comment: "Too many heavy chicks in halter tops and short-shorts, jiggling along in flip-flops, for his liking. Do they actually think they look foxy? He wondered. They made his passenger look like a supermodel."
In a way, rightly or wrongly, I took this as clear projections of the authors own opinions although of course I don't know it as fact! Either way, my disgust for the character turned to dislike. These comments are made within the first 31 pages, and his clear dislike for heavy women or anyone he perceived to be over a size 8 irritated me immensely. I'm pretty sure that if I did wear a dress size smaller than a size 14-16 I'd still feel the same way, but as it is I felt totally (and perhaps irrationally as it is a fictional character!) offended. Added to this was the use of language throughout the book, not always from the point of view of Will which was overly explicit and crude at times. Most of these sections often came across as sexist and unnecessary and I found myself disappointed as soon as I started to enjoy the book, I was almost immediately put off by the odd throw away comment here and there.
It is a shame that these factors almost spoilt the overall enjoyment of the book, as actually as a whole, it was extremely compelling. On a plus side, the derogatory comments were almost counterbalanced by the romantic tension between Will and Nancy (after she had lost a bit of weight, what a surprise!) which was well developed and interesting to read about. As well as this, I really enjoyed the sections which went back to the Eight Century Monastery and the strange events that occurred during those years which, in time link up to the present day Doomsday Killer. The spooky, almost supernatural element was interesting and truly unique to any normal crime/thriller book I've read recently.
The two threads from the eighth century and 2009 ran together very well and the story between the two was clear and intriguing. However, by half way through the book, it is clear to me who the Doomsday Killer was and why these killings have come about and once I knew the answer, the book lost a bit of it's appeal. I became almost disinterested in the rest of the book as although the answer had the "wow" factor, it left me wondering what else there was to write about! The rest of the book obviously involves Will and Nancy finding out the truth, but to be honest, it wasn't that interesting to me to find out what they thought especially as I didn't care for Will all that much. As well as this, the deaths from the Doomsday Killer aren't really examined that much due to their varied natures and it sometimes felt more like a book about Will's personal development and relationships rather than a crime mystery which put me off slightly. (Now there's a surprise!)
Added to this, I found some of the other chapters hard going. Glenn Cooper, the author, has a mixture of writing styles, only few of which I enjoyed. Aside from the explicit language and the derogatory comments, there are some chapters which were far too technical for me. Often there were technical descriptions of Area 51 and suchlike. Another time line was included in the story, after WWI when the secret library is discovered, but I felt that in a way this section was hard going and although essential to the Area 51 story, a bit boring. Thankfully, these sections were short!
Overall, I did enjoy this book. It seems strange, as once I have read a book I will usually say immediately to someone whether it was good or not, and after reading this I said it was. However, once I come to write this review, I've found I remember lots of things about it that I didn't enjoy and which actually spoiled my enjoyment a little bit. However, it is a unique and interesting story for it's genre and definitely worth reading!