So a serial killer walks into a sperm bank and…er, yeah. It does sound like the beginning of a dirty joke. Let me start again.
Say that your whole life, your womb cried out for occupation. Tiny pink socks and fuzzy blankies and Pampers commercials make you break out in hives of anticipation. But after years of trying, you realize that your true love is, well, let’s just say his little swimmers are not swimming, they’re not even in the water, they’re up on the beach having a mojito or maybe back at the hotel already. Cue more painful trying, invasive procedures and ultimately giving up, your love’s ego bruised and his virile manliness left in burning piles of ash in his own mind.
With time and therapy, you sooth the savage beast and convince him that sperm donation is the way to go. You obsess over the profiles of potential donors, ordering up personality traits and physical features, praying to find the right take-out platter of body parts and talents that will meld with your own into the perfect child. Give me a tall, blonde, handsome and smart in a turkey baster to go, please!
After all of this, your wish is granted. But as the stork fairies granteth, so they taketh away. Barely two months into your pregnancy, you see a young man being arrested on tv for the brutal serial murders of three nurses…a man who looks disturbingly like the photo of your donor.
Just pause here to ask yourself what you would do next. Cry, scream, freak the holy heck out? Check. Call the sperm bank to confirm your suspicions? Contact a lawyer to find out your options when the doctor gives you the run-around? Check! Go and meet the accused killer in jail under some flimsy pretense, ultimately decide he must be innocent and sign on as his personal Nancy Drew in order to clear his name? Right. That seems perfectly rational. Check!
You think I’m kidding about that last part, but no. So far I’ve only covered the most believable, plausible parts of this novel. As I told a friend when she asked if she should check it out: “Only if you want your kids to hear you muttering things like ‘Bitch, please’ while you’re reading.” I did spend an unusual amount of time talking out loud to this book and there were points during the second half when I felt my eyes might roll right out of my head.
I don’t feel like I can properly explain my criticism without spoilers, so if you want to be surprised stop reading now and go pick up the book! For the rest of you, let me just dive right into the heart of things. The guy in prison isn’t the killer. Big deal, you might say, there’d probably be no book if he was. Or it would be a far darker book instead of a breezy beach read. The problem lies in the fact that every shred of evidence (and it’s overwhelming to a blood-spattered-O.J.-in-a-slowmo-Bronco-chase level. I mean, the guy spends pages lovingly holding forth on the beauty of dissecting the human body. His job just happens to involve him carrying around the SAME human bone saw that was used in the murders. Plus a shovel and trash bags. He just happens to meet each of the murdered women at their workplaces and flirt with them–in three separate states, on the days of each of their murders. And more, and more…)
Which could be fine and simply written off as standard mystery novel slight of hand, look over there, kids, while the real murderer works in the shadows. However, when the killer is revealed, you might note that not one scrap of a clue could be found in the entire book to lead you in this person’s direction. The mom, in her sleuthing capacity, does interview this person for all of three minutes, asking exactly the same questions as she does of ten or so other people. You could literally just pick a random character from the book and have an equal shot at guessing their identity.
And it isn’t as if we have time to delve into the psyche of the killer, since moments after their identity is revealed, they are quickly dispatched. By running in front of a mack truck. Which has only been used in at least one episode of every crime show in the last five years. It seems like she wrote the ending with the idea of selling the movie rights firmly in mind. The last few scenes, which I will not spoil, had me laughing at the sheer audacity of the author.
I told another friend the entire plot of the book, practically frothing at the mouth in my ranting, and two days later she called me up. Without preamble, she was like “I still can’t believe that person got hit by a truck!”
The thing is, it’s an interesting idea. I was willing to go down the rabbit hole with this author. I was even willing to accept the implausibly dippy mom, who is smart enough to be a teacher, but nearly unquestioningly accepts the word of a total stranger in prison. I could see how, upon learning that you might be carrying some kind of demon spawn inside of you, your brain might do funny things and immediately skip to trying to prove the innocence of the father.
I think what bothers me so much is the laziness of the writing. There are all sorts of ways the plot could have been tied together to make sense. For instance, if the killer had been an ex-lover or bitter coworker trying to frame the young man by following him around and murdering women he met, it wouldn’t have left the story so gaping-hole random.
Still, it isn’t a terrible book. If you’re looking for something that will leave you thinking and talking about it for much longer than it takes to read, this is it. It would actually make a perfect book club choice. I can see some heated debates and gossipy laughter being generated by this rough gem.
Most Wanted by New York Time’s best-selling author Lisa Scottoline is available on 04/12/16 in hardcover and e-book from St. Martin’s Press.
Lisa Scottoline is a 20 time New York Times best-selling and an Edgar award-winning author with over 20 novels (in 20 years) under her belt, including her latest novel CORRUPTED (St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 27, 2015). Her stories have been translated into 25 different languages and her wildly popular, weekly non-fiction column, “Chick Wit,” co-written with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Lisa’s books have solidly landed on all the major bestseller lists including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Her book LOOK AGAIN was named “One of the Best Novels of the Year” by The Washington Post and as part of World Book Night 2013. It has also been optioned for a film adaptation. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries.
St. Martin’s has been kind enough to offer a print copy to one of my readers. Just use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. Winner will be chosen at random and will have 48 hours to reply before another winner will be chosen. Open to the US. Sponsor is responsible for fulfillment of prize. I received a free copy of this book but all opinions are my own.