Sunday, 14 July 2013

Book Review: UNTHINKABLE by Clyde Phillips

Unthinkable by Clyde Phillips

Title: Unthinkable
Author: Clyde Phillips
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Read: July 11 - 13, 2013

Synopsis (Goodreads):

For homicide lieutenant Jane Candiotti, stress is part of the job. But now that she and her husband are expecting their first child, Jane is under strict instructions to take it easy. A tall order on an average day, yet never more so than when a mass shooting at a local restaurant claims six victims ? including her teenaged nephew. Jane's always been professional. But this time, it's personal. Before she can bring a baby into this world, Jane vows to hunt down the monster who didn't think twice about shooting an innocent kid. But every thread of evidence leads her deeper into a tangled web of deception, violence, and murder. Her only hope of navigating the twisting turns of this case is to enlist the help of a dangerous ex-con, one who could shed light on the connection between the death of her nephew and a decades-old murder case ? eventually leading her to the most shocking discovery of her career.

My thoughts:

Unthinkable is the fourth book in a series featuring married San Francisco homicide detectives Jane Candiotti and Kenny Marks.

Jane and Kenny are excited about expecting their first child when a tragedy shatters their peace. A mass shooting in a local fast-food restaurant has claimed the life of Kenny’s nephew Bobby amongst five other victims, with no obvious connections to one another. Only one staff member has survived the massacre by locking herself in a freezer, but she cannot give any clues as to the killer’s identity other than having heard his voice yell a single command. With little information to go on, Jane begins looking into the victims’ pasts in the hope of finding a motive for the killings, whilst Kenny tries to comfort his sister and come to terms with their loss. Jane finds an unexpected ally in the ex-con brother of one of the victims, who also has connections to San Francisco’s underworld. Their investigations unearth a startling link nobody had expected, and put Jane in the line of fire of a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to fulfil his mission.

Unthinkable is a solid police procedural with an unexpected twist at the end which left me satisfied overall - even if not totally wowed - by its storyline. There is enough action to keep the pace going, and the police investigation unravels in a realistic and timely fashion. As the investigation comes closer to unveiling the identity of the killer, the pace picks up a notch, racing towards an unexpected finale.

The theme running through the novel, that of an unthinkable crime and its effects on the police officers working the scene, intrigued me and gave food for thought. Tragedies like the mass shooting explored in the novel leave their marks on all first responders of the various emergency services called to the scene (from police to paramedics to crime technicians) and may result in more casualties other than the shooting’s actual victims. This is an aspect we often ignore when hearing about tragedies on the news, and one which is definitely worthy of being further explored to raise awareness of the great job our emergency services do, often at great cost to their own lives. Unthinkable touches on the after-effects of the shootings on many levels, from the devastating effects on the victims’ families as well as the personal demons some emergency personnel have to face afterwards. I was surprised that Kenny was allowed to remain part of the investigation, when he had such a deep personal connection to the case! The theme of the after-effects of trauma and loss (and its resulting anger) played a large role in the story until the very end of the novel and formed an integral part in the final resolution of the plot.

Throughout reading Unthinkable I thought that the story would make a great TV series, and was not surprised to find out later that the author Clyde Phillips is in fact a prominent writer for television and film, and was Executive Producer for popular TV shows such as Dexter and Nurse Jackie. Perhaps it is the different writing style which allowed the story to play out vividly in my mind, yet always held me at an arm’s length from feeling truly connected to its characters. Jane, intelligent, dedicated and professional, always remained a bit of an enigma to me, which made me a spectator rather than a participant in the story. Whilst this did not impair my enjoyment of the story, it never totally held me in its grip. Since I have not read any of the previous books in the series, I cannot comment whether this is due to jumping in at number four rather than getting to know the characters through Phillips’ earlier novels.

Unthinkable is a well-constructed police procedural which should appeal to lovers of the genre.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free preview copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Please note that the final version of this novel may differ from the version I have previewed.

Previous books in the series:

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