Of late, I have been blogging a lot less frequently. It may be a terrible vice, but I have fallen prey to the clutches of online shopping. I cannot stop ordering things, especially clothes, and my cupboard is groaning under all the added weight. It’s so distracting that I am taking really long with my books and that, in my world, is a crime! Anyway, on with the review of The Mark, by A. A Peterson.
Genre(s): Thriller/Spy Thriller, Mafia/Underworld, Medical Experimentation.
Summary: A successful hit-man plans to take on one last job before retiring. The job is described as a suicide mission, and his task is to rescue the son a deceased (killed by him earlier in the novel) underworld gang lord who’s being held captive by a doctor who has just received approval for a groundbreaking drug. The drug is said to cure all violent behavior in criminals. The protagonist realizes that the doctor has a human experimentation lab where the victims/subjects eventually turn to grotesque forms of their former selves, and even turn to cannibalism. Horrified, he decides to kill the doctor (to put a stop to the experimentation), and his accomplice, who is now the reigning mafia lord, but is captured. While in captivity, he learns of the doctor’s reasons for experimentation and also about his plans of ethnic cleansing. He escapes (of course) and is planning his revenge when he realizes there are others out to kill him. He knows he needs to make the first move, in order to survive. Does he succeed? Well, read the book to find out.
Layout: The pace of the book is quite good, neither too fast nor too slow. If there’s one fault with The Mark (and it’s a pretty big fault at that) is that it leaves nothing to the imagination. Being a suspense thriller, it should have kept me on the edge of my seat. But everything is so conveniently served on the platter, that the reader just does not have to think. It’s an easy read and a suspense thriller must never be an “easy read”. During the climactic scene, instead of going, “Gasp! Oh my God!!!” I went more like, “Oh, yeah, ok.” The story takes you from point A to point B with very few to no surprises, as events occur too linearly for there to be room for a shocker. In fact, even through dialogue, our protagonist tells you not only exactly why he is doing what he is doing, but he also tells you that he is going to tell you why. Confusing statement? Let me explain. Our protagonist makes a plan to rescue the kidnapped son. The plan is described. Then the reasons are described. But there’s one single sentence that ruined the whole thing. “The reason why I planned it this way is because I have a theory, which is this:” That whole sentence could’ve been avoided. The reader would have known what’s following is the theory without being told this is a theory. That just sounds repetitive and frustrating to a reader.
The Mark follows the age-old technique of “the least likely suspect is the bad guy”. This would have worked, but the author repeatedly drilled into our brains through the protagonist’s thoughts that said bad guy is the least likely suspect, and is the epitome of all this right with this world. That’s where I figured out the ending.
The narration is in the present tense, which is a difficult thing to keep up. The tense gets lost in places. The story reads like a commentary, “I pick up my gun. I shoot. He falls. There’s blood.” It may go in favor of describing our protagonist as a completely cod-blooded ruthless killer, but he is extraordinarily nonchalant about killing and giving a first hand report. It’s almost like he’s describing the weather.
The flaw with that pattern is, the reader feels absolutely nothing. Even with all the gore that’s described as a part of what the hitman sees in the human experimentation lab, the reader simply shrugs. I must say the scene where the protagonist removes the embedded tracker was brilliantly written, and I actually winced while reading it. I just wish the whole book had been written with the brilliancy of that one scene. After all, it’s a thriller with lots of deaths. That was the effect it should have produced. On the other hand, the result here is a story that lacks credibility. Something a reader “knows” is a work of fiction and does not get transported into the world of the book.
The Mark is a little ripple on the surface of water, when an airplane touches it before ascending again. The genre the book fits into demands that airplane crashes and causes a storm in the ocean. A storm, a reader will remember. A ripple, not so much.
I would say A. A Peterson has the potential to be a great writer. But he must, oh he simply must, not keep things so straightforward and/or casual. Some secrets must unfold in the imagination of the reader and not revealed to before he/she even has time to think about them.
If you wish to buy it, here’s the link:
Note: This book was sent to me by the author for review.