3 out of 4 stars
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Once upon a time, I discovered a love for mysteries. That love was so powerful, so potent, it led me to L.A. Noble’s Chief Among Us, a choice of which I'm still not sure.
I don’t know what it is about this book, but a lot of things annoyed me. From the paragraphing errors to the way each character never really seemed to like anyone else, I found it hard to get through. Yet, I still gave it 3 out of 4 stars.
Why is that? What is it about this book that caused me to rate it so highly when I hated almost everyone?
This is the story of an organisation in trouble. Central Illinois Insurance Company is currently facing discrimination charges from several disgruntled women working within its various departments. The executives at Central can’t handle more scandals, but that doesn’t matter when an explosive email and several murders change everything. Max Lawson and Michelle Bradbury are called in to investigate, but can they find the connection between the murders and email before it’s too late?
Like Dorothy May Mercer’s Cynthia and Dan: Cyber War, I found Chief Among Us to be a difficult read due to the shallow characters and their rather disingenuous relationships. Max and Michelle, for example, are said to be so close that they might as well be married, but the author never shows us that.
Rather, we get a series of interactions wherein Michelle is constantly jealous of Max’s interactions with Maria, one of the other main characters. Max, however, either treats Michelle like an acquaintance instead of a girlfriend for most of the book, or he disregards their relationship entirely.
That’s not to say anything about the relationship between Maria and her son, Nate. While some allowances can be made for Maria’s detachment from Nate having affected their relationship as mother and son, he seems to regard her more as an enemy than a member of his family with seemingly no explanation.
I did, however, enjoy Maria, Jeffrey and a number of the supporting cast very much. Those characters prevented the book from being too dull and repetitive, while providing some much-needed comedy and levity in turn. They also served to push the central mystery of the novel forward when the investigation became too bogged down by minor details and too-similar clues.
Furthermore, parts of the book could have used more of a break from the tension than others. It was just one thing after another and there was nothing to alleviate the rising chaos within its pages. Good literature often has small moments of peace to give the reader some relief from the action in order to prepare them for what’s to come. There was very little of that here, making it a race from start to finish to find the killer, but leaving very little time for character development in between.
That’s probably just as well, because the mystery is where the book truly shines. Each chapter is carefully constructed to provide either a clue or a red herring to distract the reader from the real culprits. I will admit that I didn’t see the end coming until I’d had three quarters of the book down, and, even then, I couldn’t see how it was all going to come together. Noble does a good job of keeping the reader on their toes and it shines through with her twists and turns.
The action in the novel was also very well written. It was tightly choreographed with no fluff involved, while still pulling the reader into the excitement. My only complaint was that the chase near the end was too abrupt. Too much of it was off-screen, and what wasn’t was interrupted too often by the characters’ banter.
With that being said, I think the answer to my initial question is clear. While the paragraphing errors (and a few grammatical errors too) and disingenuous characters were a downside to the book, the mystery and characters like Maria more than made up for it. With some minor language aside, I’d recommend this to folks who are into mystery novels for the actual mystery, if nothing else.
Chief Among Us
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