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This is a review of a 2008 book 'The Front' by Patricia Cornnwell. This is not my usual genre but I realise she is a popular crime writer. Five years ago, I read another book by this author 'At Risk' but I haven't made many comments next to the log (yes I am a reading geek) so I can assume I didn't really enjoy it that much! This book was given to me by a friend in a random pile of books, not because she thought I'd enjoy it but because she felt guilty that I was always giving her books and she never gave any back but she got these from the work swaps table and gave them straight to me.
When I first looked at the book I noticed the larger pages for a paperback and the spread out print. At 181 of these pages I knew it wouldn't be taking that much reading but it is definitely easier on the eyes than some books. I also learnt from another review that this is the second book that features Investigator Win(stone) Garano, which is actually the book I mentioned above that I have no memory of! The investigation although set in America focuses on a crime against an English girl in the 1960s so I thought this may create a bit more interest in the story ... I was wrong.
A bit about ...
Win Garano is a State Investigator for District Attorney Monique Lamont in Middlesex County in Massachusetts. Lamont tells him to go undercover and find out who killed an English student called Janie Brolin in 1962. Janie was blind and raped and killed in her own flat. Everyone thought at the time her boyfriend did it but he ran away after calling the police to the scene and was run over several times so was never interviewed. In the end, no one was ever convicted of this crime but Lamont thinks she may have been the first victim of the Boston Strangler. If this is true there is lots of publicity to be had for herself and she is keen to take the glory via Win's legwork.
Win is teamed up with a local copper named 'Stumpy' who has a prosthetic leg although that's nothing to do with her nickname as she got it before she lost the leg. They are a team who seem to love to hate each other and there is definitely a spark there. They both withhold information from each other whilst investigating the case which is frustrating to the reader but helps keep the story limping (sorry that was a bad pun) along.
Other characters include 'Raggedy Ann' a local tramp who seems to be sniffing around at Win's heels all the time but he can't figure out where she fits in the jigsaw. Over in England, we have New Scotland Yard involved represented by Investigator Jeremy Killen who is working with the FBI's Special Agent McCLure. Neither of these two characters add much to the storyline and are barely mentioned in my opinion.
Win uses his contacts locally to get cheap rent, cheap shopping and a free gym pass in return for his connections and promise of high security should they need it. He also looks after his Nan who seems to be a key player early in the story but she soon fades out of the book. Win's salary is so pathetic he has to wear second hand clothes and downgrade his vehicle to a motorbike so he has to borrow other people's cars a lot of the time.
I was quite relieved when I read all the reviews on this book (after I had read it too) to see that other's concurred with my low opinion of this book. To me it felt like a few ideas sketched together but it lacked the detail and character definition that makes a good book enjoyable to read. Sure the bones of the story were there and it was good to see how Win works his way to uncover the original 1960s murder but it all seems to be based on whim rather than reality. The book attempts to be modern with mention of Social Media and You Tube but I can't really see how this adds anything to the book and it is really all about one woman's hunger for publicity (Lamont).
I have written more on this review than I would usually about a book I have enjoyed reading and I think this is because I am trying to justify my thoughts on why I didn't particularly enjoy reading it! I would not recommend it and have to say it was like watching a rubbish film where the ending leaves you feeling like you could have done a better job yourself!
This is the scond book in the seris of Win Garano who is a Massachusetts State Investigator. He had been given a case to solve which will proof to be rather challenging by his boss Monique Lamont.
The case which he had to solve was of a murder which happened over forty years ago of a lady who was blind. It was persumed that the Boston Strangler had murdered Janie Brolin and she had been left dead after she was raped and all this happened in 1962.
Win had very little to go on as the records were patchy so it was a very challening case to be involved in.
He spent along time researching the archives and also in contact with the Scotland Yard. and high ranking Police Officers
While he was searching for answers to the Janie Brolin Case he did discover other things which had been kept secret and this did involve his Boss Monique Lamont.
It took me a little while to get into the story but after awhile I was able to get stuck into it and started to enjoy it. and I found it was better than the first book which I read called The Risk. I did not find it flowed easily and I am uncertain about Patricia Cornwell's style of writing which is not the style I am familiar with but an interesting plot.Got a better insight of the main character in reading The Front which was Win Garano and how he relates to other people who he meets particuraly a female Police Officer called Stump who helps him with researching the case.
The Front was written in 2008.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Win Garano works as a State Investigator for the District Attorney Monique Lamont in the Middlesex County in Massachusetts. When she asks him to go undercover and find out who killed an English student Janie Brolin in 1962. This young blind girl was raped and left for dead when her flat was ransacked during. No one was ever convicted of this crime although it was assumed she was the first victim of the Boston Strangler.
Win must somehow find the truth on this cold case, which happened before DNA records came into force. By going through the archives and talking to anyone still alive that may remember or have been involved in the case. What puzzles him is why should his boss be so interested in this now, he believes this must be another political stunt by the ambitious Lamont.
==My thoughts on this novel:
Sadly my opinion on this particular novel may upset the hoards of Cornwall fans, but it is my honest view of it. I found this a disappointing book and certainly one that it was very hard to get into and enjoy. For me it was a little too Political and the mystery involved in it made me feel that I even at the end couldn't be sure I was being told the real agenda about who was on whose side. It was just not made clear or believable enough for me.
Patricia Cornwell is one of the most famous crime writers in the world. Her success has been built around her Kay Scarpetta novels, which this American author has written 18 off. For my review I selected something different from her and the first in the series featuring Win Garano. It was written in 2006 and was subsequently followed two years later by 'The front'.
From my perspective I do struggle particularly with American authors as I find it hard to relate to the different culture and way they live their lives. This is not my first experience of Cornwell's work and I have read the follow up to this novel 'the front'. So I know quite a bit about the lead characters in this one before I had even started it. However I did not really find this an advantage as I struggled to get into this story and even after 30 pages considered giving it up as a bad lot. However I remembered like my first experience that things did get better and this did prove fortunately to be the case again.
The main reason why I choose another Cornwell book was I was so disappointed with the first one, I thought I must have been missing something. As this lady is an international bestseller judged by many as America's most stimulating and chilling writer of crime fiction. And I don't think you can judge an author simply on one reading as even the best writers surely have off days too?
What attracted me to this Cornwell story in particular was the well-written summary on the back cover of the book. It was a fair size but it was the content of it that appealed to me, I liked the idea of Win going back on not exactly a cold case more like a frozen case from the 1960's. That plus the idea that it was never solved and just assumed it could have been the Boston Strangler made me what to discover the truth.
However as soon as I started reading the story in earnest I struggled to get into it. While I feel I have bonded in the other book with Win I really find the Political Lamont hard to understand or stomach. I think this is because like Win you never know why she is really doing something and if he doesn't trust her what chance has the reader got? I find it impossible to know if she is on the level and what ultimately is motivating her.
This coupled with the feeling that in the first 50 pages not much was really happening and the investigation was not really taking off failed to impress me, so I found it a hard and slow moving introduction. Yes there were odd things happening that seemed unrelated to the original murder but as much as anything it seemed we were learning a little about Win and his background. Yes you could argue this was sensible being the first in a new series of stories but I felt the depth was not there and I wasn't learning anything fascinating or intriguing about him and his lifestyle.
I am very pleased to tell you it does get better and when the investigation finally began, I found I got more into it and started to enjoy it. The pace increased and I started to piece together the clues. This writer is very intelligent and I liked the way her mind worked when Win started to find the information about the unfortunate girls death. But it was only towards the end that all these clues came together in a way that made more sense, as previously Win discovered facts many of which were not related to the murder and had no bearing on it.
The pace of the story certainly increased and I enjoyed the concluding chapters. Although I was still left with the uneasy opinion that I neither liked nor trusted the DA Monique Lamont his boss. And while I admired and enjoyed the answers to this crime that was being investigated I was never convinced by Lamont's involvement even when it was explained. I left me unconvinced and I wasn't sure how Win managed to continue to work for this complicated boss.
Win Garano is the lead character in this series, I found him quite a difficult character to like or even empathise with. I found I had little in common with him and I was never sure if I liked him or not. Although as the investigation gathered pace I did at least enjoy the way he went about trying to discover the truth and his skills as an investigator. I found his conversations with other characters within the story I really had to concentrate so I didn't miss exactly what he was saying and interpreting how he felt about them.
I thought the support characters in this story were weak and I felt I knew little more about them and what made them tick at the end of the story. Indeed because of this lack of depth in their characters, in a certain way it added mystery to them and meant I did not know if I could trust them or not or if they had their own agendas. Indeed I think this demonstrates exactly what I felt about the characters when I say Miss Dog was my favourite, Win's Grandmas deaf and blind dog!!
This was a comparatively short book at 229 pages and one that ultimately lacked the kind of depth that I would have expected from such an author. For me it could have been made more complex and interesting by developing the original murder story and with less emphasis on the Political and who was working for whom.
I have to admit having read both of the stories in this series that I am not convinced this is a good example of this author's work. Because when she concentrates on the investigation there are good angles possibilities and ideas presented but this forms for me too little of the overall story and it almost has to be prized out.
Overall I thought this was a disappointing book and one that I would not recommend. My assumption and it is only that is that her Scarpetta novels must be much better as otherwise she would not be a leader bestseller in crime fiction, as on this form she clearly would not be.
Price: £4.49 (New Paperback at Amazon)
About the author: www.patriciacornwell.com
Thanks for reading my review
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo
© CPTDANIELS May 2011.
Patricia Cornwells previous novels have attracted international acclaim and an avalanche of awards.
When a copy of her latest novel "The Front" fell into my hands I replanned my evening around it. I ensconced myself in my favourite armchair and prepared to become engrossed with the exploits of Massachusetts detective Win "Geronimo" Garano in what has been described by the critics as "an extraordinary, compulsively readable novel". Its readable all right. The story flows smoothly and seamlessly following our intrepid detective throughout the course of a very short week. A week that contains more action that that of the occupants of the TV series "24". Sadly that action is neither fast nor pacey. Its barely even attention grabbing but I kept on reading in the hopes that something of merit was lurking just around the corner.
There were punches but these had been preceded by teasers so at the moment of the great revelation you already knew what was going to happen.
This is Cornwalls second foray into historical crime solving. Her first, "Trace and Portrait of a killer" received a lukewarm reception largely due to the gaping holes in the evidence which allowed her to reach the conclusions she drew despite spending six million pounds of her personal fortune on the research. Fortunately she appears to have learnt her lesson and has stayed within the bounds of fiction with the plot of "The Front" hinting at links with the Boston Strangler but primarily focussing on the entirely fictitious 1962 murder of British citizen Janie Brolin on US soil which vaguely warrants all sorts of ludicrous and far flung whims and of course lots of assistance from Scotland Yard.
The storyline has all the makings of a fabulous book but it feels rushed, thrown together almost like the need to produce a best seller every nine months outweighs the need for that best seller to be right in the first place.