4 out of 4 stars
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The Embalmer by Vincent Zandri is a thriller that follows former cop Steve Jobz as he attempts to solve a string of murders. He's no relation to the Apple CEO, as he will tell you, and is tapped go on assignment with the police. This killer, dubbed “The Mortician” likes to embalm his victims alive and pose them like living dolls for the public to enjoy. Alongside Detective Miller, they set out to catch the killer.
I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel at first. Based on the blurb I read, I assumed it would be a hokey crime procedural, particularly with such a silly name for its protagonist. I was surprised to find that I was wrong. The novel starts off with a bang. From the first page, the reader knows what’s going on, who the bad guy is, and what’s at stake. It reminded me a little bit of Dennis Lehane’s style in his Kenzie & Gennaro series. From there, it doesn’t let up.
Steve Jobz is a cross between Sam Spade and Seth Rogen. He’s a former cop with a job that doesn’t challenge him, but has no interest in doing anything to change his situation. It’s clear his insecurity over how he lost his badge weighs on him throughout the novel, and he uses humor as cover. He deflects from moments of self-doubt early in the novel with jokes, either about his name or the people around him.
Speaking of the humor in this book; some of the humor was a little hokey. I think that’s what you except from this kind of hard-boiled novel but some of the jokes, especially about Jobz’s name, were a little too much at times. However, Jobz’s exchanges with his Henrietta were some of my favorites scenes to read throughout the entire novel.
It’s hard to pick a favorite character in this novel. You’ve got Steve, the screw-up with a heart of gold that everyone loves to pick on. Then there is Detective Miller, an older gentleman who treats Steve more like a son than a colleague. There’s also Henrietta, the outspoken, sassy, head of the Unemployment Agency. Bringing up the rear is Georgie, the pot-smoking pathologist. One of The Embalmer's greatest strengths are these varied, eccentric personalities, characters that captivate the reader's attention from the beginning of the novel.
The Embalmer is a fun, fast-paced read for anyone who likes hard-boiled detective fiction, CSI, Law and Order, or Dennis Lehane. It would make a great airplane read, or (given the right time of year) beach read. I give The Embalmer a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
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