I don’t remember where I read or heard about this one, but it’s one of those times I got suckered by a great cover. I really, really like the art.
Story? Not so much.
Here’s the setup: Gabriel, an arrogant psychic hacker living in London, is asked to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s stepson. The boy, Robbie, had gotten involved with a mysterious and beautiful pair of sisters. His father is ill and would like to know what happened before he dies.
Gabriel isn’t eager to take on the assignment, but while staring at Robbie’s photo he accidentally falls into Robbie’s mind-space and relives what appear to be Robbie’s last moments. One of the sisters is clearly the killer, but Gabriel can’t tell which one, so he sets about ingratiating himself with them both in hopes of finding out what happened.
I’m glossing over a lot of details, of course, but there are two problems here.
Minor problem: every time Gabriel and his associate started talking about computers, I had to stifle a laugh. Mostert almost knows what she’s talking about, but she’s just a little bit off — and she often feels the need to explain the big, scary technology to the reader, which only showed off how thin her knowledge really was. Here’s a tip: if you don’t actually know squat about hacking or wireless networks, either make really sure you get it right, or borrow a trick from Gibson and stick with metaphors. Otherwise those of us who know even a little bit more about it than you do — I mean, I’m a damn web designer, not someone with mad networking skillz — will be amused and insulted by turns.
Major problem: the plot was utterly predictable. The problem with having Gabriel retrace Robbie’s steps to find his killer is that he’s retracing Robbie’s steps. From the moment he entered the sisters’ house, nothing was much of a surprise. Now, I’ll grant you that I’ve gotten a lot better at predicting plot twists since I got serious about my own writing, but I don’t think I was especially astute at figuring out what had happened to the kid; I think Mostert was telegraphing her punches. It was obvious which sister did it, to the point where, when Gabriel thinks he’s figured out that it was the other one, I said, “No, he’ll realize in about five pages that he got it wrong,” and lo, it was so. Did I know the precise mechanics of what happened? No, they’re pretty damn weird — the only really original thing about this book, in fact — and I wouldn’t have guessed them. The problem was that by the time I got to them, I didn’t care anymore. I’d known for two hundred pages what was going to happen, and I was just sitting back and watching it play out. I almost stopped reading halfway through, but I kept hoping for a twist that never came.
I hate to get rid of a book with such a lovely cover, but I’m so very disappointed in it. Out it goes.