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by Tami Hoag
Orion, November 2004
432 pages
ISBN: 0752841262

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Tami Hoag is one of those authors whose books I have enjoyed well enough, but without barging children and old ladies out of the way to buy the latest one in hardback. She's an accomplished storyteller, and her previous book DARK HORSE had me turning pages at a rate of knots.

I never thought I'd hear myself say that I was bored 150 or so pages into a Hoag novel, though. But I was. KILL THE MESSENGER is what you might diplomatically call a slow-burner. The action seemed forced, the characters not that gripping and worse, it was a case of the curse of the unconvincing crime novel -- One Damn Thing On Top Of Another . . . But Hoag suddenly pulls it round, and the action in the final two-thirds of the book bumps along quicker than a courier's bike.

Jace Damon is a bike messenger, making next to nothing for cash in hand and no questions asked. He's called on to make one last pick-up from the office of shady defense attorney Lenny Lowell. There's a storm about to burst over Los Angeles, and Jace wants to get home to his little brother Tyler who he's bringing up single-handed. But he needs the money.

When he gets to the address Lowell has given him, he finds it's a vacant lot. As he's wondering what to do, a car appears and tries to run him down. Jace escapes -- but discovers that Lowell is dead and he's the prime suspect.

A lot of KILL THE MESSENGER teeters on the edge of being totally unlikely. Kev Parker, the detective trying to solve the case, wears designer suits, drives a Jaguar, lives in a trendy loft and doesn't need to work. But despite the fact he has been bumped out of Robbery-Homicide and is bad-mouthed by all and sundry, he still does the job. In the end, though, he won over this reader.

And you'll have to suspend disbelief somewhat for Jace and Tyler's circumstances. The orphaned offspring of a paranoid mother, they are taken in by a stern Chinese matriarch who finds them wandering round Chinatown and who is won over by Tyler, the boy with an IQ through the roof. Madame Chan is actually the best creation in the book and has echoes of Lydia Chin's mother in the S J Rozan books.

The final twist is a good 'un, and by then I had more or less forgiven Hoag for the slow start. I can't say all the characters grabbed me, but the plot certainly did.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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