Even as I am writing this post, I’m going back and forth on how to rate this book. My gut is telling me to assign a low score, because I didn’t enjoy the book, but on the other hand I also finished the whole thing, so how bad could it really have been?
It… was pretty bad. Part of it is my own fault; this book is actually the tenth in the Griffin Powell series by Barton, although it was the first of Barton’s many books that I’ve read. Yes, you read that right: I read the tenth book in a series as my jumping-off point with an author. In my defense, I had no idea! What happened?! I’m so glad you asked…
I was on vacation and out of things to read when I discovered the hotel had a small collection of books to borrow. Based on the quality and condition of most of these books my best guess is that they are cast-offs or rejects from past travelers, but beggars can’t be choosers so I blithely selected some reading material and went back to sitting by the pool.
Silent Killer seemed like it was going to be a quick read, and if I didn’t finish it before I had to return it the the desk I wouldn’t be too disappointed. Nowhere on the book was there any indication that it was a sequel or otherwise related to a series. It didn’t say so on the cover or the spine:
Nor does the back blurb imply that there is any prior knowledge about the story needed:
Then, in two separate lists of books by Barton, neither list mentions that all these books are in the same series!
Lo and behold, within the first several chapters I was confused by what was happening, so I looked up the book on GoodReads, and figured out what the issue was. But, while every few chapters would be confusing and meaningless to me, the overall story arc was unrelated to the series, so I kept reading (plus, I was in a literature desert, so what choice did I have).
Even with my exasperation about the book being a series, I would have still scored this book much higher, except it really was terrible. For an author who had previously written at least 9 other books, the dialogue and storytelling felt extraordinarily amateur. Characters are constantly telling the reader things, rather than the facts of the story emerging more naturally. Another thing that really decreased the score was the fact that the depiction of law enforcement was laughable; I am not now, nor never have been any sort of police officer, but I am pretty sure that it takes some kind of training and actual skill, a fact that Barton doesn’t seem to be aware of. Within 3 days on the job our “hero” Jack, who got the job because he’s BFFs with the chief and needed employment, not because he’s qualified, has already taken over an investigation and started telling other officers how to do their jobs. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; once the killer really starts doubling down on the murder-spree the police become less and less professional… and yet they still sort-of manage to catch the killer (spolier?). I mean, the ambiguously aged teenage soon of the heroine figures it out just as fast. (About that: the kid is sometimes 15, sometimes 16, sometimes almost 17, and sometimes somehow born 14 years ago? And the story only takes place over a couple of days or weeks, so it’s not like he’s having birthdays all over the place. It’s confusing). There’s also enough POV characters to make your head spin.
Besides the clunky writing, there are also 11 pastors/rabbis/priests in this story. ELEVEN. I had to get out a notebook and count them in order to keep them straight. Living in the Bible Belt I’m no stranger to having a town with a high-density of churches, but the town was made out to be the kind of small where you know everyone’s grandparent’s intimate business, so I don’t think it would be able to support more than three or four churches- certainly not 8 or 9+.
Perhaps the one redeeming quality is that the killer was kind of unsuspected? I mean, I had it figured out before the reveal, but it was my second guess and I wasn’t sure until two thirds of the way through, so at least it wasn’t obvious from the get-go, and it wasn’t the even worse sin of someone totally out of left field. The final confrontation was corny and implausible, but I got caught up in it enough as I was reading so after everything else it didn’t bother me much.
For all the faults, this was an ok book for mindless reading by the pool, but what really set me off came at the very end, when I got to this page:
That’s right! After reading the whole thing, suddenly Barton is desperate for you to know that there’s a whole series! (And you thought I was done with the rant about this, didn’t you?)
Anyway, this book didn’t do it for me, but if you’ve read the first 9 Griffen Powell books, then maybe you’ll like it more?