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18 SECONDS
by George D. Shuman
Simon and Schuster, March 2006
320 pages
$23.00
ISBN: 0743277163


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

One of the pitfalls of being an avid reader is that you become overly attuned to the cliches of the genre. It becomes difficult to find a book that strays from the formulae and presents a unique device. George Shuman has succeeded in doing that in 18 SECONDS. One of his protagonists, Sherry Moore, was injured in childhood and had a freak after-effect as a result -- she lost her eyesight but gained the ability to look into the mind of a dead person and view what they were seeing during the last 18 seconds of their life.

At first glance, that skill would appear to be a real asset in terms of solving homicides. However, what a person is thinking or seeing during the last 18 seconds of their life may not be a recording of what is happening around them. Often, they may have moved into a fantasy state or experience flashbacks to an earlier time of their life. Sherry has to sort through these confusing images and determine what is useful for the law enforcement people investigating the crime.

Unfortunately, Shuman didn't really capitalize on the unique device that he created as the gimmick for the book. Instead, the narrative focuses mostly on a police lieutenant named Kelly O'Shaughnessy who works with the Wildwood, New Jersey, force.

A serial killer (remember those dreaded cliches?) is on the loose and has targeted Kelly as a future victim because her father had arrested him many years earlier. It's too bad that Shuman, who has many years of experience working in the Washington DC police department, couldn't come up with a more interesting premise.

I wished that Shuman would have made Sherry the focal point of the book. There are actually very few times in 18 SECONDS where Sherry demonstrates her unique ability. The expectation of something new and different was dashed as a result. Sherry, of course, is beautiful; the serial killer is deranged; both Sherry and Kelly are endangered; and all those cliches I thought would be avoided came tumbling to the forefront.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, May 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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