The Bourbon Street Ripper by Leo King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Just when I was thinking nothing really good would ever come out of giveaways, I got “The Bourbon Street Ripper” (BSR). Put off at first by the lurid title, I quickly got drawn into the book.
As usual, I’ll skip summarising the story as others will have done this before. In short, it’s basically a well-done mystery novel and, in contrast to the author’s “Clearly not your normal mystery book.” it is a normal mystery book with a few twists and some “extra features”. It’s not normal in that most “normal” mystery books are treading well worn-out paths which, to a fair extent, BSR succeeds to avoid.
The main characters are mostly believable and well-developed and both the 20-years-before story as well as the current storyline and interestingly (and rather subjectively) presented through some of the characters.
The contrast between two of the protagonists, namely Rodger and Michael, works well for the book as do the similarities between two other characters (albeit the presentation of those could have been a bit more subtle).
For me at least, this was a real page turner in spite of having to apply some suspension of disbelief at certain points in the story (a certain scene with the priory comes to mind). The book still “works” for me, though, since when I’m reading a piece of fiction I’m willing to “just let go” a fair part of my usual skepticism.
Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to this otherwise nice work. Starting with what annoyed me the most, there were some scenes that were presented in an overly gory way – there was no need to describe in rather blunt terms how a side-character gets murdered and how the crime scene looks afterwards. I consider these gore scenes actually one of the weakest points of the book.
Some people might take offence at the Voodoo theme as well; I’m not one of them, though. It may make sense, considering the primary location in the book is New Orleans, though, I’m not sure. Speaking of which: From what I’ve read, I somehow got the notion the author might want to convey his ideas and feelings about or for New Orleans. Maybe even get the reader to become interested in the city itself. If that’s part of the goal, it failed for me.
The cliffhanger at the end didn’t really come as a surprise either – there were (too) many allusions as to what would happen for my taste and, thus, the “cliffhanger” didn’t work for me – I expected exactly what happened and I’m pretty sure I can predict what the second book is going to start with.
I do like, though, that I’m not yet sure who’s behind it all – I do have my suspects but not having made up my mind at the end of the first book is certainly a good sign.
This is my final gripe with BSR, though: A mystery thriller shouldn’t come in two books. Never ever.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read lots of, e. g. epic fantasy; I’ve stuck with Wheel of Time. I’m not happy with a mystery thriller trying to pull off the same, though. Those should come as one (huge, if necessary) volume. Yes, the publisher might not like that, people with an attention span of about 10 seconds might not either. It might even sell worse at first but, really, a good mystery will find its audience even if it has a thousand pages.
I’m curious to read how this all is going to end and, thus, will buy the second book for sure but, Leo, if you pull such a stunt again, you can become the next winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and I still won’t read another book of yours.
Even though it might not seem like it after all this criticism, all in all, I really liked this book. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes to read a good mystery. Four out of five stars from me.
— UPDATE —
This review got me into touch with Leo directly and I was able to discuss things with him. Leo, as it turned out, is a really friendly, approachable person and very transparent with respect to his ideas, plans and reasons for his choices. While it doesn’t change my feelings about BSR, this is something out of the ordinary and yet another reason to keep an eye on his further works.
Authors who write good books and are simply nice people, open to criticism, deserve my support at least and I hope you, dear reader, feel the same. 🙂
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