February 5, 2013

Rabid Reads: "A Murder of Crows" by David Rotenberg

A Murder of Crows
by David Rotenberg
Simon & Schuster (2013)
352 pages
ISBN 9781439170144

Decker Roberts, the human truth detector, is back in David Rotenberg's second Junction Chronicles novel. After the first novel, which saw his life--bother personal and professional--practically implode. Between the NSA hunting him down to exploit his unique ability and learning his estranged son is dying of cancer, Decker had to contend with a corrupt pharmaceutical executive. Well, he may have solved one problem, but the NSA and his son are still making his life a slow, grinding journey as he tries to stay out of sight from the U.S. government and still find a way to reunite with a son that wants nothing to do with him.

A Murder of Crows sees Decker Roberts conscripted by the NSA, namely Special Agent Yslan Hicks, to help investigate a terrorist attack that saw the death of an entire graduating class at one of America's most prestigious universities. America's best and brightest have been murdered en masse, as well as much of the faculty, and finding those responsible will require finding the truth--Decker's specialty. Trouble is Decker and the NSA aren't exactly on the best of terms, given the disturbing methods by which they've been tracking him and other so-called synaesthates.

Much like the first Junction novel, The Placebo Effect, I was less interested in the thriller aspect of the story than I was with the complex and engrossing relationship between Decker and his son, Seth. I don't tend to go for straight-up globetrotting mystery/thrillers like this--gave The Da Vinci Code a whirl when it was in the limelight, as an example, and just couldn't get into it--but the saving grace to books of this type is when the protagonist's relationships are fleshed out to a great degree. Plus, the abrasive nature of Decker's interactions with Special Agent Hicks came off as particularly well executed--and at times quite humorous.

If I'm to point out the weak spot in the book, I'd likely look to the bomber, who smugly evades detection through the book. His back-story and motivations are believable enough, but too often I found myself envisioning him twirling a mustache. That drops off as the tension mounts in the latter half of the book, but it took a while to really get wrapped up in the actual villains, as Decker's personal life held the most intrigue for me.

If you liked The Placebo Effect then you'll likely love A Murder of Crows. But to fully appreciate it, you'd better go find Placebo Effect and read that first.

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