This time our reviewers were given the chance to review City of Sins by Daniel Blake. A serial killer thriller set against a backdrop of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans, this certainly isn’t your average murder mystery…
Jackie Farrant writes:
Detective Frank Patrese is back in this cracking follow-up to ‘Soul Murder’ which sees him uprooted from his beloved Pittsburgh to join a FBI unit in sultry New Orleans. I can honestly say that this is one of the most multi-faceted serial killer thrillers I have read including (takes a deep breath)….the Asian tsunami, body dismorphia, voodoo, ethnic cleansing, Mayan legends, Hurricane Katrina…oh…and a goodly amount of gory murders. I must admit that I felt the flimsy tsunami opener surplus to requirements and added nothing to the plot. One environmental disaster was plenty and the story would have been none the worse for its exclusion. Blake’s depiction of the seedy underbelly and voodoo heritage of New Orleans was exceptionally well-drawn and equally, the tense build-up to Hurricane Katrina and its horrific aftermath showed a deftness of touch. I will also say that I have not read any crime novel that used the largely un-addressed issue of body dismorphia as a plot device and this was fascinating and worked well within the overall plot-line. On the subject of character this novel more than establishes Frank Patrese as a credible character with just the right degree of toughness, morality and vulnerability and this bodes well for future outings. Overall, although the central plot-line was a little far-fetched, I found this a good read with just the right amount of twists and turns to keep me hooked and I shall certainly pick up the next one…
Bryan Clifton writes:
Being an avid reader of Dean Koontz, Karen Slaughter, Kathy Reichs and Andy McNab, amongst others, for my fill of thriller / crime / horror novels, I quite often find that I am unable to put the book down. I take them everywhere so a few pages here and there can be snatched. I like to give other authors a chance for my affection, but they usually let me down and get cast aside like an old pair of slippers without being given a second chance.
So when the opportunity arose to try Daniel Blake’s new novel City of Sins I thought why not, someone I haven’t read before, the cover looks intriguing and the title grabs me (especially as New Orleans is place I yearn to visit). So I gave it a go and was hoping to not compare his work against my favourite authors’ offerings.
The book begins by introducing the main character, FBI Agent Franco Patrese in a situation where he becomes a national hero of another country, setting up Franco’s personality for the reader. I must admit to feeling this was a little superfluous to the story, but is used later in the story to build on his character.
The secondary character, NOPD Selma Fawcett, at first seems a little uptight and gets tighter, with the predictable romantic tryst with Franco, and occasionally gets way to preachy with her opinions. I appreciate people have a history (even in a book!) but I don’t particularly want it rammed down my throat so this aspect put me off a little, however I will leave it to the reader to decide. There is a surprise later in the book which I must admit to not have seen coming! Given my history with Dean Koontz novels I was expecting something similar to this scenario but with a different outcome.
One of the facets of the story is Hurricane Katrina, and during the read I was disappointed that this was not featured as much as I expected. Although the story uses Hurricane Katrina as the foundation of the story, I feel more could have been made of this to darken the story, and highlight the differences between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor (you will see what I mean when you read it!), and basically allow mayhem to be reeked upon the city.
Perhaps it’s just me; perhaps I have been desensitised to violence in films and in the printed word, but the violence inflicted during the story felt mild considering “a serial killer rains death on New Orleans”. I get the quote, I really do! I wasn’t shocked. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the book and will no doubt read more Daniel Blake, but I didn’t feel the need to take it everywhere and read it whenever I could. It’s still a worthy read and will certainly stay on my shelf to read again in the future.
Shelley Mason writes:
The synopsis promised much – a thrilling race through New Orleans to find a killer while Hurricane Katrina bears down on the city. All very exciting elements but the book itself, while perfectly readable, I found quite disappointing. The characters are sketchily drawn and I felt as though I was never allowed to know them fully – they were like outlines which hadn’t been filled in properly and were allowed to swap sides, from good to bad or vice versa, with impunity.
Some of the voodoo elements are not explained particularly well and some sections, such as the big graveyard scene, seem almost laughable. Its relevance to the rest of the story was also questionable for such a big scene. There were problems for me with some of the plot points. In one part of the book, a crucial piece of evidence is relied upon to help all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. If you re-read the earlier section when the crucial evidence is found, the very information the author and characters rely on is simply not there! A fairly central character is also killed off in a rather abrupt manner. Whether the author was trying to convey the panic the impending hurricane brought to the city by doing this in such a way, I’m not sure. Unfortunately it had the effect of a stumble in a book and, once shaken out of the book’s dramatic world, it is hard to get back into and for me, is never the same.