3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Isn't it funny the difference one little letter can make? Take, for instance, "pray to the Lord" versus Prey to the Lord. Written by Frank Catanzano, the latter is a Detective John Bello crime mystery novel wherein a religious fanatic is systematically killing off those who sexually abuse children. The idea of a serial killer dispensing with the lowest of the low, those who molest the young, immediately caught my attention, and I'm glad I read this book. With that being said, I think calling the book "Prey FOR the Lord" may have made a bit more sense.
As members of Empowering Children, an organization that was ostensibly created to "help disadvantaged kids get a head start in life through special family and consumer education", the perverts think that they are safe from those who would frown on their activities. But now there is a killer who is doing quite a bit more than just frowning. Fortunately - but is it really? - Detective Bello and his partner, Detective Schmidt, are on the case. With each successive murder being more gruesome than the last, can the team catch the supposed tool of God before he completes his mission?
With this kind of plot, one expects equal doses of suspense and action, and that is what one gets in this tome. The tale moves at a decent clip, ramping up the action until the finale. The ending in particular had me on the edge of my seat, cringing with every move. I will also say that up until the midway point, I had several guesses as to who the killer could be, but at 45% of the book (according to my Kindle), I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who the culprit was. I'm not saying it was obvious, as I had to go to an earlier part of the novel to double-check my thinking, but if the reader really pays attention, they can figure it out. Even so, it didn't take away from the latter 55% because I still had to experience the Detectives catching on and going after him.
As great as the plot itself was, the character-building could have been better. The killer "heard" from God and therefore thought he was doing the Creator's will, so that was interesting, but it sometimes seemed to be a bit overdone. Later in the book, though, once the killer was revealed, his backstory was filled-in, thereby fleshing him out better. I still would like to have known a bit more about his hearing from God, but the author never clarified whether the murderer was schizophrenic or what exactly. For his part, Detective Bello also had an interesting characteristic. Due to an injury suffered in Vietnam, he gained ‘Acquired Savant Syndrome', which allowed him to hold a relevant object and partially see an event as it happened. Obviously, that ability came in quite handy in solving the case. Still, aside from knowing that the Detective had that capability and that he was a heavy womanizer, I knew very little about him. His family history was mentioned some, but not enough to make him a fully three-dimensional character. Since this is seemingly the first in a series of books, I'm hopeful that the author will delve more into the man that is Detective Bello in later novels. I also missed the camaraderie that is common in these sort of books. With such heavy cases, I like reading about detectives and cops joking around, thereby letting off some steam. I'm not saying that they didn't get along, but that sense of brotherhood could have been illustrated more. As a result, I had trouble really rooting for anyone; even though the killer shouldn't have been taking justice into his own hands, I also certainly couldn't root for the "victims" or even feel really bad for them. This left me with the authorities, and while I did want them to win, I didn't feel as invested as I could have.
Even though I felt that the character writing could have been better, I thought the author's storytelling itself was pretty good. It was straightforward, telling the tale in the factual way that one does but with wonderful doses of flourish. I particularly liked "If Russo told you it was Christmas, you could go hang up your stocking", which was said about a particularly honest Detective. "And when the media coverage appears, your ‘good standing’ will have gotten up and left" is another line that had me in gales of laughter. Additionally, the killer had a penchant for puns, which made me groan with delight a few times.
Unfortunately, as great as the wording is, the grammar itself needs a lot of work. In his Acknowledgements, Mr. Catanzano thanked someone for "her editing skills". I suggest that he go back and hire an actual professional, as there was at least one error per page. The worst mistake by far was quotation mark usage; sometimes the end quote mark was missing, and at other times the marks were there minus any speech. Other missteps included missing words, incorrect word usage, punctuation mishaps, and misspellings. Even though it's not a requirement, it also bothered me that the author didn't italicize the characters' thoughts. Finally, because he was keeping the killer's identity a secret, there were a lot of instances of missing identifiers when referring to different characters; in these cases, the author could have added clarity to the writing by referring to the culprit as "the murderer", "the killer", "the madman", etc. One such passage reads as follows:
“You must confess to the horrible transgressions you have made! The Lord is watching you and the abominations you have committed!” He began to elevate his voice as anger overtook him. He suddenly and violently thrust the ice pick through the mesh, directly into Monroe’s eye socket. He emitted a low grunt as he fell to the floor, his brain functions ceasing within a fraction of a second."
With all things considered, I have to give Prey to the Lord: A Detective John Bello Novel 3 out of 4 stars. If we could give half stars, I would have went with 2.5, but I decided to round up since the characterizations don't warrant the loss of a whole star. If it's not already obvious, this novel has a lot of graphic content, so it's not for the faint of heart. I also wouldn't recommend it to those who can't stand reading about a character misrepresenting God's words. I do think that fans of crime mysteries and authorities with an interesting ability would enjoy this tome. Finally, if you're a reader who likes the idea of child molesters getting their just desserts in a gory fashion, I pray that this novel does it for you.
Prey to the Lord
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like MsTri's review? Post a comment saying so!