Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Shepherd by Ethan Cross

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Marcus Williams and Francis Ackerman Jr. both have a talent for hurting people. Marcus, a former New York City homicide detective, uses his abilities to protect others, while Ackerman uses his gifts to inflict pain and suffering. When both men become unwilling pawns in a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of our government, Marcus finds himself in a deadly game of cat and mouse trapped between a twisted psychopath and a vigilante with seemingly unlimited resources. Aided by a rogue FBI agent and the vigilante's beautiful daughter--a woman with whom he's quickly falling in love--Marcus must expose the deadly political conspiracy and confront his past while hunting down one of the most cunning and ruthless killers in the world

And here's what I thought:  The sentence blurb on the cover of this novel reads, "Silence of the Lambs meets the Bourne Identity." I think that's a pretty accurate description of this story -- it's definitely thriller meets horror.  In this story, we're given an interesting pair of men: Marcus, a former homicide detective, and Akerman, a sociopath and killer.  The pace is even and fast, right from the beginning of the story, and doesn't let up.  The author also doesn't pull punches with his language; he writes in a straightforward manner, making it clear what's happening in the story. 

I will say, that even though I have seen several great reviews of this book on GoodReads, this book didn't quite do it for me.  Maybe I'm a bit inured to some of the aspects of the story from reading too much Chelsea Cain (and in the past, Thomas Harris), but while Akerman's behavior was horrifying, I found him a bit predictable at times.   He's a nasty character, but I could usually anticipate what he was going to do in a situation.   What I did find interesting about him is that he's a made sociopath, carefully constructed by his father to become the horrific man that he is.   This was the idea I really found scary in the book; that someone could basically engineer and make another person into a psychopathic killer. 

Also, something about the writing style just didn't resonate with me.   This is purely personal, not a reflection of the author's writing.  I'm making this as clear as I can, because reading is such a completely personal thing; one person's reaction to a story might be completely different, depending on when they read something, what else is going on in their lives, etc.   At times, a certain phrase, or sentence, would strike me and I'd wince a little.  Example: "The volcano had erupted inside him, and a blanket of red had fallen over his eyes like a shroud.  The flower of his righteous rage was in full bloom."  (p. 83).  It's that last sentence that makes me pause.  And not in a good way - when I read this, I raised my eyebrows.   But, as I said, this is just me, personally.   This kind of writing really works for a thriller because it conveys the emotion that is happening with the action in the story.  Maybe I'm just not a huge reader of books that fall into the thriller genre.  Maybe it's just that when I read this, I was feeling a little burned out and tired.

Either way, this was a decent read, and it kept me entertained until the very end, which I appreciated.  The pace was smooth, and the story kept me guessing, which I also appreciated.  

First sentences:  "Jim Morgan watched as reflections of the patrol car's flashing lights danced across the front window of the remote gas station.  He strained to see beyond the strange and ominous shadows into the building's interior.  Although the call from dispatch warranted only a routine robbery report, for some reason, an irrational yet overwhelming feeling of dread crept over the edges of his consciousness."

Thoughts on the cover: Definitely conveys that this is a thriller, with the flames converging on a main street. 


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