A Good Book Alert Review (Reviewer was provided with free e-book copy prior to review)
Author: Sidney Williams
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Interesting, albeit disturbing, psychological exploration into the dark depths of the human psyche help compensate for a slow middle act in Midnight Eyes.
Aging Louisiana Sheriff Ty Hood never expected to have to deal with a brutal serial killer. With reporters, politicians, and glory-hungry private detectives all breathing down his neck, he reaches out to his estranged son Wayland, a former FBI profiler who specializes in serial killers.
Serial killers represent true horror. They are humans that have abandoned humanity; beasts with the intelligence of a men.
Midnight Eyes explores these dark relatives of mainstream humanity in often disturbing detail. Accordingly, this novel is not for the faint of heart. Although the book doesn't revel in gore, a victim-mutilating serial killer is a key aspect of the book. More disturbing, and a testament to the author's characterization skills, is the mental insight and depth provided into serial killers (both the primary antagonist and already imprisoned killer near the start of the book). They are monsters, yes, but monsters with depth.
The non-killers in the book are also, for the most part, well-developed. The strained interaction between the father and son provides a nice bit of character tension. Ty and Wayland have distinct personalities. Watching the investigation unfold from the different perspectives makes it a bit more engaging. In addition, seeing the two different styles of police work the men represent was also interesting.
Most of the other side-characters are given sufficient development. They all come off as distinct individuals even if they are not presented with as nearly much depth as Ty and Wayland. The author even takes a little time to use a journalist character to explore the tension between keeping the public informed and withholding information to protect the public.
Unfortunately, although that theme is somewhat interesting and well-informed by the author's journalism background, the journalist character does feel slightly superfluous to the narrative. Overall, her presence tends to slightly slow the narrative by spreading out the plot a bit too much at certain key points.
This is particularly an issue in the middle acts of the story. The identity of the killer is made clear relatively early on though there the author still manages to keep some surprises for the reader. Although knowing the identity of the killer doesn't necessarily inherently damage tension, the dramatic value of the presente police investigation (with realistic, though potentially frustrating-dead ends) isn't strong enough to fully compensate. A thriller thrives on constant tension, and I didn't always feel the tension or urgency. I will note that watching the other side of the investigation, from the killer's POV provided more than a few genuinely creepy moments.
The closing act managed great tension and a few final twists. It took full advantage of the time spent earlier with character development to add some emotional depth to the final chapters.