Thursday, March 17, 2011

KnockOut: In-depth Book Review

Coulter, Catherine. KnockOut. New York: Putnam, 2009. Hardcover. +417 pages. $26.95

What's this? Another post when I should be studying/grading/doing something probably more productive? This does not speak well of this book that my outrage is so bad I will put off French homework.

Well, maybe not. My French class is pretty bad.

And I should note, to be fair, I was kind of irritated when I started this book because I discovered that instead of managing to buy Whiplash (which apparently comes after KnockOut) on a steep markdown...I'd managed to buy, somehow, two copies of KnockOut. Granted, I did not pay $26.95 for either copy ($6.99, thank you B&N discount bin). Still, one will be going to Half Price Books. Possibly both.

So here is my open letter to Catherine Coulter.

Dear Ms. Coulter,

Please stop watching the X-Files.

your fans.

Seriously, I've enjoyed Catherine Coulter's FBI thrillers from the beginning. They're typically well-paced, exciting, and, referencing my previous post on Elizabeth Lowell's romantic suspense novel Death Echo, have had just the right amount of romance, given that Coulter started her career as a romance writer. And there has been weird stuff happen in Coulter's books before, but they were typically just things that had no real explanation--weird stuff that could probably be rationalized away, especially in Double Take.

But this has gotten a bit much. Now, one of the recurring characters, Dillon Savich, is flat out telepathic.


Anyway. The book opens with a bank robbery. Savich, of course, is in the bank and saves the day, killing one of the robbers. Unfortunately, her daughter is also one of the robbers, and the daughter's way over-age boyfriend is the driver, and the daughter eventually escapes from the hospital and is a recurring threat throughout the book as she really, really wants to kill Savich.

Savich, having gone home after a hard day's work, then receives a telepathic call from a scared little girl, Autumn, whose father's family is after her because of her psychic abilities, which they want to add to their cult.

Switch over to Sheriff Ethan. He's looking for a missing little girl. Turns out, she's been in his house all day, because she knows that he can protect her and her mother, Joanna, from the batshit insane family members who are after her.

So. Lots of running around, lots of trying to get all of the pertinent, unbelievable information from Joanna and Autumn, and finally, a call from Savich, which confirms their completely unbelievable story. Turns out, one of the crazies after her, Blessed, can take over people's minds, and when they finally get hold of him, he "stymies" everyone and gets back loose.

Lots of chasing around. Savich and Sherlock come to Virginia to help and to record the psychic phenomenon and let Savich's wonder computer, MAX, loose on stuff. The crazies take Joanna, Ethan and Autumn hostage, and Autumn does an acting job that deserves an Oscar for playing her crazy uncle to do what she wants.

In the mean time, Savich and Sherlock return to Washington to deal with the bank robber crazies, who they catch, of course, but partly because Autumn "calls" Savich and then psychically pummels the bank robbers for him. Back in the podunk cult town, Ethan and Autumn manage to throw down, which ends up with Autumn, who the cult leader calls the strongest psychic power he'd ever seen, shot.

At the end, Ethan and Joanna are together (which still boggles my mind. Even though Joanna's husband, Autumn's father, had been in prison for three years, he'd died two weeks before. That's a little fast, not to mention the fact that we barely see any kind of relationship developing), Autumn is alive, and they're wondering about whether or not she psychically burned herself out. After all, that kind of power's dangerous. Of course, the book ends on her psychically reaching out to Savich.

All of this could have easily been done in half the amount of pages by cutting out a tremendous amount of unnecessary scenes, and the bank robber plot really wasn't needed. Instead, the bank robbers seemed added in because the book couldn't pin the entire plot on just the psychic aspect. By the time I got to about the last third of the book, it was midnight and I was really wishing it was over already.

Here's my beef with KnockOut, and to be honest, with Death Echo as well. If I've read a series, I expect it to continue in the same vein. I don't need psychic intervention to make it fresh. I like the same kinds of adventures that we've seen before. And here's the other thing: when you go into a paranormal novel, you have a certain level of suspension of disbelief that you don't necessarily have when you're talking about an FBI thriller. To have that suddenly introduced to you, Pow!, shakes things up too much to ever really get your proper frame of mind back. I realize the need to keep things interesting and fresh for the reader, but you do that through your characters. You don't do this by adding an unbelievable plot device into a book where it doesn't belong.

KnockOut= D+

Right. I'm going to go be productive now.

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