The Dead Room by Chris Mooney

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The Dead Room by Chris Mooney

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Hit and miss thriller with enough good points to be worth trying if you like authors such as Lee Child and Carol O'Connell
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141039879

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The third in the Darby McCormick series, the Dead Room sees the head of Boston's CSU investigating a horrific home invasion which leads to a woman's death and her son's hospitalisation. As McCormick becomes more deeply involved, she realises that the case is more complicated than she could possibly have imagined, with clues leading to people who are supposedly already dead, and suggestions that her father's death in the line of duty wasn't all that it seemed to be. Meanwhile, ex-cop Jamie Russo turns vigilante as she tries to avenge her husband's murder.

This book had a huge amount of potential, with a really strong start featuring McCormick apparently dealing with a hostage situation, allowing her to show off her physical and observational skills. It's quickly revealed that rather than a real hostage situation, this is the first part of her final SWAT exam, and we get an interesting debrief which quickly fills in readers like me, who are new to the series, on her character.

From there, we go to the aforementioned home invasion, and more excitement. The start of the book is really strong, and had me keen to find out more. The writing style is exciting, and Mooney's short, punchy chapters make it good pre-bedtime reading (for those who aren't likely to have nightmares, at least!)

And then… once Jamie Russo is introduced, the book goes downhill.

There's a noticeable unevenness in the two strands of the main plot – McCormick is an excellent heroine whose reactions to an increasingly desperate situation as she starts to understand more and more of the truth are totally believable; Russo is something of a caricature for the most part who isn't developed fully as a character. The chapters focusing on her don't come across with the same realism as McCormick's do, and while it's eventually clear there are reasons for this, my attention wandered off during these parts compared to the gripping main story.

By the end of the book, Mooney definitely had me interested in the all-important denouement, and while I found the eventual explanation to be somewhat unrealistic, it's certainly not the most ridiculous scenario I've seen in a thriller. I also felt that most of the questions raised earlier in the book were explained well by the end, which is always pleasing in a crime novel.

So, in general, flashes of really good stuff in most of the McCormick chapters, but let down by too much time devoted to Russo, and a lack of development of the other key people in the book. McCormick's partner Coop, who obviously has something to hide, is a strong supporting character, but too many of the other men and women she deals with are generic tough guys or detectives with little which makes them stand out.

I should also warn readers that it's very gory in places – only the strong of stomach are likely to get far!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might enjoy Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell.

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