Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Rusty Nail by J.A. Konrath

Rusty Nail (Jack Daniels Mystery, #3)After ridding Chicago of the sadistic serial killer the Gingerbread Man detective Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels is surprised to receive a new snuff video and evidence that he is back. Is it a copycat or was he not working alone? Blood is thicker than water and psychopaths too have family.

Konrath has a certain degree of renown in the writerly circles for often going the non-traditional route in publishing and promoting his books. I heard a lot about him and reading his blog peaked my curiosity enough to pick up Rusty Nail at the store when the bright green cover caught my eye. It sat on the shelf for a while until finally its time came and I settled in to read.
From the very first pages it was clear that this was going to be a gory story with enough creepiness to deserve a spot on the most twisted episode of Criminal Minds. There was plenty of graphic detail to send my imagination into overdrive but not so much as to save it from doing any work. One device stuck with me in particular: the killer tells the victim that he's going to be fed his own intestines and then in a later chapter asks the victim a question and comments that he can't answer because his mouth is full. Nothing else, just that, and you immediately imagine all the horror of the situation, you don't need to see any of it described on the page.
If horror was all there was to the book I wouldn't have continued reading, however fortunately Jack and her friends provided enough levity to balance out the terror. They are clever, fast with a witty retort, and the way Konrath writes them is vastly entertaining. There's also depth and humanity to them - Jack's personal life is a mess and the competent detective has trouble dealing with more downs than ups, and her partner has to contend all the discomforts associated with medical procedures that are routine for a man of a certain age. They are people who actually have lives outside of the office, not some superheroes fighting crime every day and going to hybernate in their work locker in the off hours, and seeing them when they're vulnerable was touching and endearing.
There was plenty of action with competitive shooting and hand-to-hand combat to the death, races against time and lives on the line. I did enjoy those sequences although sometimes they got bogged down in too much detail. I had the same problem with Jack's daily routine - do we really need to know the brand, style and color of every item of clothing she puts on in the morning? Yes, she is fashion and label-conscious, but I don't know anyone who catalogues their outfit every day. In fact, had some of the attention Konrath dedicated to Jack's wardrobe been used to keep the physical descriptions of other characters straight the book would've been better - unless there's a wig or a trip to the salon in the picture (which I'm sure would've been mentioned) going from a bob to long hair in less than a week is just not realistic.
The idea of drink names for book titles is interesting but when I started reading I couldn't imagine how a beverage could have anything to do with what was going on in the book. After all this isn't a drunkard's chronicle. Konrath didn't disappoint though - the title tied in nicely with the story and the way the rusty nail appeared in the beginning and the end brought the narrative a full circle in a very satisfying fashion.
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this book but while this would be a good choice for those who like a police thriller with a generous helping of stomach-twisting violence this was too gory for my taste. On a number of occasions I started to wonder how Konrath came up with the ideas for the next torture and then realized that I didn't really want to know. I'd recommend Rusty Nail to fans of the genre but I myself will not be reading more of Konrath's work unless he scales back on the horror.

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