3 out of 4 stars
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Ladies and gentleman of the reader’s theater, today I present to you the case of the criminal law thriller which has put many of the proper elements in place but has failed to earn the moniker of “suspense.” I submit as evidence the likable characters who push the pace of the story and the gruesome crime scene which piques macabre interests. These inclusions make The Candle Room, above all else, an enjoyable read. Where author, Daniel K. Gentile, has failed us, however, is in his inability to surprise.
The Candle Room opens with a news-like retelling of the victim’s life, terminating with the analysis of his murder; Ollie, a self-made millionaire, was brutally bound, stabbed, and then forcibly separated from his feet. End scene and enter green law graduate, Zach Morgan. Outraged by the unethical (and likely unlawful) billing tactics at his new “big-boy” job, Zach decides to strike it out on his own and launch his private firm. Desperate for clients, he accepts a strange case off the coattail of a friend and the Law Office of Zachary E. Morgan officially opened.
Some of the best parts of this book were encased in the conversations Zach has with his rapidly growing clientele. I found myself smirking more than once when introduced to clients ranging from those wanting to sue over barking dogs to those requesting will preparation where literally everything was left to the dogs. The day to day interactions were the most charming parts of this read.
As previously mentioned, though, the plot and resulting climax were not suspenseful. Reading through my notes, I found written on page eight: “XX did it as revenge for XX.” Now, you realize I’ve omitted the spoilers, but suffice it to say—I understood whodunit in chapter one. Not only was the murderer expected, but I felt that they lacked character development. I would have appreciated more little clues throughout that culminated in an ah-ha moment in the end. The killer is revealed in more of a data dump than a stunning revelation. I also found myself wishing for more separation in opposing character traits. For example, Zach, the lawyer, can be heard saying “they must be eatin’ some potent mushrooms,” which seemed very out of character for the learned academic presented to readers.
Specifics aside, this book was very entertaining. The courtroom scenes were dramatic, and Zach’s inner commentary on the proceedings kept me interested as the book moved along and his story slowly began to merge with Ollie’s. Although I enjoyed Gentile’s work and would likely read from him again, I wouldn’t suggest this to crime fans wanting a real head-scratcher. Readers who enjoy a good story and interesting characters though will likely fly through this read. Since it failed in the realm of suspense (and could benefit from the smooth hand of an editor), I am rating this book 3 out of 4 stars. Bailiff, please bring in the next witness.
The Candle Room
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