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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Engineer Trawls Through More Suspects Than a Game of Clue, to Find the Proof of His Friend's Innocence, 6 Nov. 2013
This review is from: The Reckless Engineer (Kindle Edition)
First Paragraph:

"Harry and Jeremy were just about to call it a day and head over to the pub for a drink when the call came through. Harry had gathered the files and papers spread over the round table that stood diagonally opposite the large polished oak desk that dominated his office. There they liked to sit in the afternoon, take stock, and mull over matters at hand once every few days. The London sky, turning a misty orange-red through the window behind Harry, was being served to them lukewarm and sliced finely into stripes by the blind. Jeremy didn't envy Harry and his large west-facing office. He liked his sun served whole, with a black Americano and two sugars, early in the morning."

The Reckless Engineer is a murder-mystery story, and the first full-length novel by Jac Wright. To celebrate its release today, here's my review.

PLOT

Jeremy is an engineer who started his own company after being made redundant last year. He shares an office with his old school friend, Harry, who runs a law firm. So when Jeremy gets a call from his old colleague and friend, Jack- claiming he's been arrested on murder charges- Harry is the first person he turns to. Together, the pair do their best to solve the murder- hopefully proving Jack's innocence in the process.

However, the task is a daunting one. The victim was Michelle- another employee at Jeremy's old company- though in this case she was a secretary. Jack and Michelle have been having an affair. Jack is somewhat of a heartbreaker. He left his first wife and two sons to marry his current wife- the daughter of a very wealthy man (who also happens to be his boss). He then had an affair with another engineer at the same company, before he replaced her with Michelle. More than that, Michelle had just told him she was pregnant with his child, and served him an ultimatum- divorce his current wife and marry her (taking half the very wealthy Mrs. share with them) or else. And she wasn't the only one handing him ultimatums. His father-in-law is none too happy about the affair. His wife certainly isn't. His ex stands to lose his child support. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

So when Michelle ends up dead, Jack is the first person everybody points to. Michelle's presence threatened his job, his marriage and his money. But with more suspects than a game of Clue (and growing), Jeremy and Harry have their work cut out for them.

REVIEW

A more intellectual than intense, action-packed mystery, with an ending that will keep you guessing. There are so many different suspects, with so many different motives and means, that keeping track of them all was a challenge. Not in an my-goodness-this-is-overly-complicated way, but more in a maybe-I-should-just-call-it-an-Orient-Express-job kind of way.

When the murderer is revealed, and the how and the why explained, it is one of the few cases where I could actually understand why they would go to such extremes, as well as the conditions that put them there. The clues are all there, and I was kicking myself slightly that I didn't think more of them, or really even notice them at the time.

I do have a couple criticisms though. My major one is, unfortunately, Jeremy- our main character. For a large portion of the story he acts as more of a viewer, and as a source of exposition than as a character with any real personality. He does occasionally go all 'Mission Impossible', but then immediately returns to his almost background character behaviour. And the ratio of action-to-non-action is so strongly on the side of the latter, that it causes a lack of tension throughout the book. Mostly we are given a lot of information, and not a lot else. Only about three quarters of the way through the story does Jeremy actively grab the momentum and keep it going. So while he does step-up his almost background character level of interesting, I still think of him as a secondary character on the main premise that we don't really learn much about him. We are overloaded with information about the rest of the characters, and yet the main character's info sheet is strangely sparse. However, I have it on good authority (from the author himself) that there will be a sequel, so hopefully Jeremy will get a little more development there. I just wish we'd had more here.

Another issue is that some of the dialogue is a little clunky. Something about is just doesn't fit right, it doesn't quite work. It just seems a little off. It's not throughout the entire book- more certain sections of the text.

On a similar note, the subject of race is a little poorly described too. It's nothing too offensive, but maybe just a little un-PC? For instance, a Mexican boy is described as "that brown boy". Perhaps that doesn't seem that bad, but something about it just doesn't sit right.

OVERALL

A little slow-paced, and lacking tension, but with a well thought out story and believable character reactions, as well as an understandable chain of events that could eventually lead someone to murder. I'd say that if you're going to read it, read it for that reason. It's refreshing to have a murderer who has more than superficial or exaggerated reasons for killing.

If you'd like to learn a little bit more about the story and the author, I'll have a Q&A up with Jac Wright himself later on. As well as that, there's a competition hosted by the author too- so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Nov 2013 07:54:58 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jan 2014 09:33:40 GMT
Jac Wright says:
Hiya. Thanks for a great review. :^) On your question about Jeremy's personality I can answer in detail on my blog ( http://mysteriescrimethrillers.blogspot.co.uk ) later.

The "morose maverick" stereotype is hacked to death in noir, you see. Jeremy's diplomacy thing is by quite deliberate design because, for one thing, he would not get the cooperation, access, and the welcoming reception of the people he is investigating if not for his non-threatening and apparently harmless demeanor, among other factors. Remember when he makes the mistake of questioning Douglas McAllen about the police investigation about his "disappearing PI" or alerting Caitlin about access to the roof of the McAllen mansion, they instantly shut him out until he re-assumes his harmless facade.

You guessed correctly that while this particular story belongs to Jack Connor and his family around him, where all the tension is focused, a secondary story-line develops in the background. This is why it is a series and not a standalone. I develop the "series story-line" and the series characters-Jeremy, Harry, Stephen Barratt, Maggie, Annie, and Otter-much more gradually in the background without imposing on the primary "episode" story-line belonging to Jack Connor and the murder. I quite deliberately shy away from any stereotype sleuth in literature who is self-important and egotistical and over-dominates the "episode story" (ie in this book the story around the murder, Jac Connor, and his family). As a couple of reviewers have caught on, if Jeremy is like any other character in literature, it is Watson in the Sherlock Holmes series, the highly skilled and qualified professional amateur who is an apparent bystander. Watson narrates the series from a supporting character's point of view while all the tension mounts around him among the other characters, but the difference is that HE (or his equivalent) is the sleuth and who solves the mystery.

Where the "episode story-line" and the "series story-line" merge here is that we now have the engineering firm BlackGold Silicon formed as a partnership between Jack Connor and Jeremy Stone (I hate that last name; I wanted to call him "Jeremy Reid" too late) sharing a wing with Barratt Stavers & Associates at 127 Fleet Street, London.

I can tell you that you are right that I develop Jeremy's personality and he "comes into his own" in time, but this journey is a gradual one that develops through the series. And you are right that this "series story" (as opposed to the "episode story" belonging to Jack Connor) of the love triangle between Maggie, Annie, and Jeremy, which is on the slow boil on the back-burner here, does come to the forefront and plays out in the next book "BUY, SELL, MURDER." In this second book I develop Jeremy a little further and also prominently develop Otter as Jeremy's "sidekick."

Posted on 22 Jan 2014 18:35:11 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 23 Jan 2014 10:48:09 GMT]

Posted on 23 Jan 2014 14:49:33 GMT
I thought the opposite actually. Jeremy is much more active and aggressive in his investigations than the regular amateur detectives I have read. All they ever do generally is go around speaking to people, but Jeremy was soon following suspects, tracking down and bringing shady hidden characters out of their hiding places, breaking into computers, tracing identities through their post, breaking into hotel records, questioning characters under disguise(!), climbing walls,. . . all at nail-biting danger to himself. I loved the action AND the hero. His appealing ("non-morose") nature is charming and made him loveable; made me respect and identify with him a lot more.

And there's massive tension in the book everywhere which starts with the very first sentence and mounts relentlessly with every chapter, with each one of the suspects that Jeremy uncovers.
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