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"The roar of a chainsaw drowned out her scream."
on 21 March 2011
Jill Wooten is a cute redhead who is out of a job and is on her way to the bar WaxWorkZ for an 11:00 p.m. interview. Little does she know that she's being set up by her old friend Debra Lusky. See, there is no job interview, what there is, is a set up so that Jill will be attacked by a maniac with a chainsaw. Not a real chainsaw, but a fake one, as Debra's setting Jill up for "Shock Treatment" a macabre practical joke "Candid Camera" tv show.
Unfortunately for all, Jill has been getting threatening phone calls from Greg Gonch, her abusive ex-boyfriend, and so, she never leaves home without her new best friend. Well, when the faux maniac, actor Matt Novak threatens her, she pulls her gat from her purse and pumps a round into him. And so starts the first part of the novel.
Showing up to investigate is Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Greg Saunders, Captain Jim Brass, and David Phillips. As the CSI bunch investigates, the shooting may not be black and white. While it's never really in doubt that Jill shot Novak in a panic, as they investigate they realize that, just maybe, Jill and Novak were set up, but by who?
"Shock Treatment" follows the formula of the American tv series in that this novel also gives us another mystery to contrast the first one. In this case, Rita Segura is having one of her migraines, and so she shows up early to "The Nile" a swanky massage parlor that treats the in crowd with a message by putting a myriad of various snakes on the massagee. The trouble is that instead of a harmless snake, a venomous coral snake is mixed in with the batch and Rita gets bit. The hook is, Rita's snake massage is unscheduled, so the venomous snake couldn't possibly be meant for her, could it? The first massage of each Monday is reserved for the spa's owner, the exotic Alexandra Nile. And what does masseuse Heather Gilroy have to do with it all? Nobody knows, she's fled and has since disappeared.
The show's characters that show up for this part of the novel are: Dr. Raymond Langston, Sara Sidle, & Detective Vartann.
This novel's chapters will then start to alternate between these two different mysteries. "Shock Treatment" will certainly please die-hard fans while frustrating casual fans, like me at times. Like the tv series, both mysteries are plausible, intrinsically interesting, are investigated without any real flashy action, and are solved by solid methodical policework.
Aye, but here's the rub. The stories ARE sturdy and solid, but, as Jerry Bruckheimer long ago realized, if you want to tell a good story, you need to pizzazz it up somewhere. On the tv series, it is through a series of dazzling visuals that are used to explain the crimes, how they are performed by the criminals, investigated by the police, and how they affected the victims. There is none of that here, I don't know how Cox could have pulled this off, but without them the novel just comes across as a bit flat. Some authors use characterization to spiff up the story, but because this novel is part of a franchise, characterization is almost nil. The best that Cox does is to use Brass as a counterpoint to Wooten's shooting, as once long ago he too accidently shot and killed somebody. In his case it was another officer. And since this is being told from the police's viewpoint, Cox gives us no characterizations to remember from the supporting cast either.
And so, as special effects are nil, characterization is nil, this novel has to rely on a pair of interesting, but pedestrianly told, police procedurals. Another problem is that Cox was probably under obligation to include all the major characters from the show, and so the novel becomes cluttered by one faceless character after another. You really miss the characterization that a good actor intrinsically will bring to their roles. Unless you already know who everybody is before entering this novel most of these characters just end up taking up space and become tiresome filler. Also for fans, old cases from the tv show are constantly being referenced, which is interesting for the rest us at first, but which becomes tiresome after a while. Although it DOES show that Cox WAS paying attention during class. A positive is that for the first mystery Cox shows he's up to snuff on crime fighting technology by bringing in and using the John Bond technique for finding fingerprints on spent casings. Hard-core fans will be disappointed by Gil Grissom not being in the book, despite being featured on the cover.
Despite nobody's favorite characters getting enough time, most die-hard fans should rate this a four or five star book. For the rest of us, this will probably rate three stars because the novel is cluttered with too many faceless characters from the series, and the stories aren't imaginatively told. However, I did like the first story and so I'll split the difference and give this novel four stars, as I was never bored.