Newest Review: ... Fight To The Death' so I was pretty sure that this was going to be a dramatic novel. My previous experience is that this author write... more
Entertaining read, but doesn't change the crime thriller tune
The Devil's Garden - Richard Montanari
Member Name: pmcds
The Devil's Garden - Richard Montanari
Advantages: Fast paced, characters, Estonian folklore angle
Disadvantages: Doesn't do anything different
It's always nice when a crime thriller lends a little difference in terms of national traditional folklore, and Richard Montanari injects a little Estonian history into this fast paced thriller. Combining modern American law and crime with historical Estonian tales of immortality needs a little something extra to bridge the gap, though, and it comes here in the form of some violence, family crisis and a good old fashioned American hero.
The book opens with a short scene where an Estonian soothsayer gives birth to three babies, one stillborn. The other two are then stolen away from her and the father, Aleks, who then kills the mother, believing that this and retaining a drop of blood from each of the three babies is all he needs to fulfill his folklore destiny of becoming Koshkei the Deathless.
Four years later, New York ADA Michael Roman has shaken off the shackles of his Estonian parents' gruesome death many years before and has a lovely life with his beautiful wife Abby and yep, you guessed it, adopted twin daughters Charlotte and Emily (like the Bronte sisters, as various characters comment).
It's not long before Aleks sets off to find his missing daughters, leaving a trail of gruesome violence and torture in his quest for the truth. But Michael is no ordinary man - he has already cheated death more than once, and he will do anything to protect his family.
I think this is the second of Montanari's books I have read, although his style and characterisation is often similar to so many other crime thriller authors that I can't be sure. I remember a plot and some characters, albeit briefly, and the name is somewhat familiar. I don't have the inclination to go searching to find out. Either way, this did not affect my reading of this book in any way. The opening was a bit detailed yet mysterious, and this was a little annoying as I like a book that launches straight into things, even if this isn't what my ultimate judgment is based upon. The book does pick up pace but this is only down to the familiar and generic crime thriller style of the book.
The characters are instantly familiar and easy to understand, the back history coming where necessary, the scene and location set very quickly and completely once the opening confusion is over. As the book settles in, the brief slips into Estonian folklore are welcome to provide a break in the prose, it running not so much as a narrative but looking objectively at every character. Three threads emerge, that of Michael, Aleks and the lead investigator on what quickly becomes a multiple murder case, Desiree Powell. The brutal dominance of Aleks is matched by the dogged family values of Michael, and Powell is introduced as a dominant woman to the proceedings, having fought her way to where she is.
In retrospect, I can't think of a single weak character in the book. Montanari certainly leans heavily on aggression and confidence being traits of all concerned in order to maintain pace and consistency, and it is in this vein that the book is quite memorable. I'm sure that after a few weeks and a couple more books, a lot of this will fade from my mind somewhat, but at the time of reading, it's certainly a book I'm glad to have read. The only thing is that reading doesn't instantly make me want to pick up another of his works, despite having another 2 or 3 sitting on my ever expanding shelf of books to read.
At less than 400 pages long, there's no real worry of rambling paragraphs showing their faces too much, and the way the story is written, they don't really work anyway. There is a gentle attempt here and there to show some sort of solidity and filler with character build ups later on in the book, but each tuime this happens I got the urge to just skim it, no matter the character concerned. I felt that there would be no relevant detail contained within these passages but I read them anyway and felt that the only way this would actually have been relevant is if you didn't have a solid grasp of each character in your mind already.
It flows very well, and it's a good tale. There are no unexplained twists or events, and the tale ends on a semi-philosophical note by bringing it back to the Estonian tale of folklore. It's well written, but just does nothing special or different to other similar authors in terms of content. The Estonian element is nice to have as a side vantage, but with plenty of European literature flooding the market now, even this will soon cease to be a noticeable difference. Worth a read, but nothing different.
Summary: Entertaining US crime thriller with an Estonian tweak