Title: Before he Kills
Author: Blake Pierce
Published by: Amazon Media
Publication date: 18 May 2016
“In the cornfields of Nebraska a woman is found murdered, strung up on a pole, the victim of a deranged killer. It doesn’t take long for the police to realize a serial killer is on the loose—and that his spree has just begun.
Detective Mackenzie White, young, tough, smarter than the aging, chauvinistic men on her local force, finds herself called in grudgingly to help solve it. As much as the other officers hate to admit it, they need her young, brilliant mind, which has already helped crack cold cases that had left them stumped. Yet even for Mackenzie this new case proves an impossible riddle, something the likes of which she—and the local force—have ever seen.“
It has been a while since I read a classic detective novel and I figured Before he Kills would fit the bill nicely and offer a fresh perspective on the genre.
The story focuses on Mackenzie White, a young female detective that has been newly promoted to the role. She is something of a knowledge whizz when it comes to closed cases which helps her, in part, get to grips with the newest case unfolding before her and the police department she works with.
I honestly wanted to like Before he Kills a lot more than I did, but found the story and characters to be walking cliches. Mackenzie White is young – 24 I believe – and fills the trope of ‘Woman with something to prove’ perfectly. To the point where I felt, as a character, she was over compensating and just that little bit too good at everything. I couldn’t connect with her perfection – at 24 she can batter men to their feet, outsmart the rest of the police force she works with and recall past cases from before her birth with ease – she just came across as a bit too good. I personally prefer characters with a few genuine flaws. Sadly, the cliches within Before he Kills don’t stop with Mackenzie Whites personality and abilities. At the beginning of the story she has a ‘lazy’ boyfriend who seems to spend his time slobbing about the house playing his Xbox when he isn’t working. Their relationship in in ruins and well, I think just from my brief description and mention of cliches you can tell what’s going to happen to the young couple.
It didn’t stop there though, the plot of the book wasn’t all that grand either. It’s a linear story of a single case so you’d have thought it’d would have been well written and thought out. The whole ‘crime’ is that someone grabs women, ties them to a large wooden pole and murders them. By whipping them. Mostly on the back. I don’t quite know how this is possible as I’m pretty sure they’re tied facing the murderer. The plot is sadly unfulfilling and as soon as Detective Mackenzie White found a ‘clue’ I figured out the motives of the murderer; yet it took half a book before the characters (some of them experts in serial killers) figured it out. Then again, maybe it’s because the plot was so weak that I was able to ‘get it’ so early on. Again, cliches of detective mysteries are visited upon in the plot. Obviously, it was the shining-star, Detective Mackenzie White herself that cracked it, not the FBI agent sent to work with her nor her more experiences peers. What a surprise!
There is a lot of complaining in this book too. Detective Mackenzie White works in a police department surrounded by misogynistic men. This fact is hammered down the readers throat for the vast majority of the book and it became rather irritating. On top of this there is the moaning about the lazy boyfriend, stuck in the old ways colleagues, dishonest journalists and family troubles that had no bearing on the story as a whole other than to make Detective White take everything a bit too personally and continue her complaining. All this, despite the fact she is given the lead role in the case and the aforementioned attractive FBI agent to work with – who tells her she’s brilliant. The cliches really are rife in Before he Kills and while sometimes cliches are a good thing to build upon, Before he Kills has far, far too many of them to be an overly enjoyable read.
These cliches continue as the book progresses. There is a sudden twist in attitude towards Detective Mackenzie White and she is suddenly seen as the best detective on the force and put in charge of the serial killer case; her face is on the front page of the local newspaper and everything! She then goes from being so great-a-detective to making a splattering of terrible choices and more detective-plot cliches occur and it was at this point I was almost laughing at Before he Kills and playing a came of ‘cliche i-spy.’ To me, it just points to lazy writing and even lazier planning. Not a good start to a debut series.
All this is making it sound like I didn’t enjoy this book – but somehow, I did! It’s a frustrating book because with a little more thought and refinement it could be a lot better than it was. With a bit of consideration, Detective Mackenzie White could have been a much better character. And with a few less cliches the plot could have been a lot more suspense filled and even more enjoyable. However, unless the follow-on book is as free as this one was, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up in a hurry.