Beverley Barton is not an author I'd ever heard of before I read this book but apparently she has written over sixty novels and lives in Alabama. This is a book that might have caught my eye in a shop but as it happens it was amongst a bagful that a friend lent me. The Murder Game is about a man who considers himself to be a hunter and he selects women as his prey to play "the murder game" with. This man holds them captve then repeatedly gives them a chance to escape before finally hunting them down and killing them.
Private Investigator Griffin Powell and FBI Agent Nicole Baxter worked together on a case that was similar to this one but the killer was shot dead on that case. Griffin and Nicole however always thought there might have been two killers on that case and it seems they might have been right when the killer starts to phone them and give them clues about who he's going to abduct next. The problem is the clues are so vague they struggle to piece them together in time.
It all sounds like a great plot and it could have been if it had been written by someone who doesn't have a taste for romance. Beverley Barton mainly writes romance but her thrillers are classed as romantic thrillers and for me that always mean a predictable relationship between the lead characters. I wasn't wrong on this occasion either and as soon as I started reading and Griff and Nicole hated each other I just knew where that was going. I really wish some of these authors who write this type of genre would realise it doesn't disguise the romance aspect by having the leads dislike each other in the beginning.
The hunter and his prey is again another good storyline which could have worked well and been really chilling but sadly it's so caught up in the eventual romance that it isn't given the attention it deserves and falls a bit flat. Towards the end, I won't ruin it by saying exactly why this is, it also becomes laughable and ridiculous too.
The other characters in the book are mainly Griffin's friends and their presence is unfortunately very odd and contrived and you just know where that's going as soon as you meet them too. There's very little in the way of surprise in this book and from the first few pages you can literally reel off almost the entire plot in your head.
The relationship between Griffin and Nicole is very badly written and so unbelievable even when they supposedly dislike each other, there's no depth to either character and I found I didn't care one way or the other what happened to them. The author seems so determined and distracted to get the romantic element going in this book that she forgets about the rest of the plotline.
The story plods along at a predictable and forced pace that had me wondering if I should just stop reading the book and that's not something I often do. I persevered however but at no point does it get any better or any more thrilling. As I said before, by the latter stages of the book it's just plain ridiculous and the last quarter of the book feels like it was added on as a bit of padding because the finished manuscript wasn't quite long enough.
On the front this tells us it is a New York Times bestseller and the fact this could be a bestseller at all amazes me. I wondered if it was an old book and that was the problem but it isn't, it was published in 2008. It's not thrilling, or chilling, it's a predictable and slow story that could have been brilliant. Not one I'd recommend but if I haven't put you off it is available to buy from Amazon for £4.99 or 1p used. I strongly advise borrowing it though if you must read it as I doubt you'll want to keep it and read it again.
Just one star from me.
A plotline that was murdered!
The Murder Game by Beverly Barton
~ About Beverly Barton ~
Born and raised in Alabama, Beverly had her first novel published in 1990. She was by then a mother whose children had left the nest, and so started writing to help fill in some of her time.
She considers herself to have two writing styles. Some books are noted as being romantic suspense, the others just simply romance books in nature.
She has now written over 60 novels in both genres.
The Murder game was released in 2008.
~ The book synopsis. ~
We begin with someone being hunted through woodland. A woman is trying desperately to escape the clutches of her tormentor, but eventually he wins and she is killed. He has now killed 5 women in 5 different states.
But the game for the hunter has changed. No longer satisfied just with killing someone, he knows he needs an adversary to make the hunt and kill more exciting -
Because he has done this sort of thing before, only his cousin and former partner in crime is now dead. Leaving him with no-one to battle his wits against.
But then he decides on the two people who can be those adversaries. Private Investigator Griffon Powell, and FBI Agent Nicole Baxter had brought down another serial killer, his cousin no less and the only person the FBI were willing to attribute to the previous killings. Only 2 people disagreed with this and had always maintained there were indeed two separate killers. Who better to drag into his games?
Griffon and Nicole are bitter enemies, forced together initially by circumstances beyond their control, are now forced to work together a second time. Only this time, the stakes are much higher and emotions begin to come into play like they never thought possible.
To catch this psychopathic killer they both need to not only work together, but also possibly lose everything close to them, and by then it might be too late.
~ My thoughts on the book ~
Overall the plotline and writing was good enough. It wasn't the most tense of thriller novels I've read, but it was good enough to want to keep finding out more about who the killer was, what motivated him and also how Griffin and Nicole both dealt with the situation.
We get nicely balanced looks into Griffin and Nicole's past that helps us understand not only their desire to hunt the killer down, but also why they interact with people in the way that they do. -
The romantic angle Beverly Barton is known for tends to take a bit of a back seat in this story, and that's not such a bad thing. Unfortunately I've not read any of her other books, so I don't know how this might compare to others in this particular genre.
There was a nice balance of intricacy, which makes it a nice easy read but without it becoming so boring you switch off straight away. Her writing style in this novel means she likes to give you more than just the viewpoint of the hunter and the people chasing him. You also get a nice look at the victims and how it affects them, but without it being overly gory or too insensitive.
It's nicely paced, but again as I've said an easy enough read, all good points in any book, but particularly in this genre. But this also did have the feeling of "I've read this all before." Because of the way it came across.
Its not the sort of in-depth writing that can keep you occupied discussing with someone else for example, but still good enough for you to perhaps mention it for someone to look out for.
And tell someone to look out for it I would - Except for some glaring issues I had reading this!
Now, reading the first part of this review you would think I enjoyed the book - and in many ways I did. But there are some glaring mistakes and plotline issues with it that really wrecked any enjoyment I was getting from reading it all.
First of all, Griffin Powell and his lost 10 years. We later find out what caused him to disappear for 10 years, and how he amassed his fortune. It all just was too contrived to fit into this storyline, and so felt totally unbelievable. Now I've no problem with this aspect being brought into the story, but if you are going to show the characters flaws and past history, I prefer to see it in a much more plausible setting and not one so obviously set up to mirror the present events going on around him.
But, despite my moans about this aspect, it isn't what annoys me the most.
What annoyed me more than anything were absolutely appalling errors in storyline continuity, spelling mistakes, and geographical errors.
The biggest issue for me was the way we suddenly "lost" a body! We had 5 known murders, in 5 different states.
Suddenly we are down to four whilst in discussions about the murders. Now I was so stunned by this I actually read the passages out to my partner, and then read from the beginning again to see if I hadn't mistaken something and the numbers were right for this particular aspect of the book.
I could not find any reason why suddenly we were down to 4 murders! Not one - and yet right at the end of the book - miraculously we get the right figure given (allowing for additional bodies to appear). And this wasn't just something mentioned once mistakenly, it was mentioned in more than one passage in the book!
This completely ruined the rest of the book for me because I just kept thinking back to this mistake the whole way through and wondering how it wasn't spotted or did I really miss something even after reading it through from the start again. Mind you, the spelling and grammatical errors right the way through the book were also astounding! I accept the occasional typing error can occur, but again in this instance I thought it was way above what I would normally find and so isn't acceptable.
There was also a geographical error, and considering I'm not American, to have picked up on that is enough for me to wonder was it someone who wasn't qualified proof reading this story!
~ So final thoughts ~
Overall, this wouldn't have been a bad book to read, and I would have given it 4 stars. But as you've probably noticed the errors it produced were enough to effectively ruin all the good work it did contain.
So therefore I won't recommend this book to anyone, nor am I likely to read another Beverly Barton book unless it's a freebie. The mistakes right the way through are not good enough for a writer who has written so many books previously. Had this been her first attempt I could forgive it more, but not over 60 books later. Her editing team need a bomb putting under them basically.
So it's a poor 1 star from me.
~ Availability ~
I paid £3-87 from Tesco's for my copy. It seems to be widely available from other suppliers, and prices do seem to vary from £1-34 used (exc. P&P)
This review will also be on Ciao.