Snake Skin

by CJ Lyons

Amazon Kindle Edition

Rating: * *


Kindle Note: As of today, July 13, 2011, this book is free for Kindle.

In Brief: Ashley is a disturbed teenager, trying to escape her current life — but she ends up being abducted. Can Lucy Guardino, FBI agent and loving wife and mother, solve the crime in time to save Ashley?

I thought: Within the first 20 pages, I found this book a bit disturbing. (NB: I don’t usually read thriller-type mysteries.) It’s violent, and features kidnapping, vulnerable and abused children, corrupt cops, sexual objectification, and plenty of swearing. It felt at times a little like the author had a checklist goal to meet.

Lucy read, to me, like a bit of a sterotype: Overworked law enforcement parent ignores her own child to protect others, believing that in doing so she can save both the victims and her own daughter. See also: Law & Order: SVU, Body of Proof, &c. &c. I was, however, glad that her relationship with her husband seemed to be loving, stable and mature. Her daughter was a typical (as depicted in fiction, at least) whiny pre-adolescent, trying to distance herself from Mom. We also have the overly nerdy nerd tech guy, the divorced cop who can’t keep it in his pants, the obnoxious journalist — none of the characters, to me, read as being terribly real.

The plot, though, moved at a brisk clip and I was obviously interested enough to finish it, even though I wasn’t loving the characters. From the very first page, the suspense is there, and it never really lets up. The villains are seriously depraved. There were times when I found myself skipping over some of the more graphic descriptions of events; maybe I’m a wimp. (I also avert my eyes during similar moments on the TV. Usually.) Everything reaches a satisfactory conclusion, although it seemed to wrap up a bit too quickly.

Since I live in Pittsburgh, I of course have to comment on the representation of our neighborhoods. It was pretty decently done, although West Homestead isn’t really part of the South Side, Murray and Negley don’t connect (they run parallel!) and — potential spoiler! — if you blew up a house in Lawrenceville you’d take out at least two other houses since they’re packed in there like sardines. I actually picked this up because I was hoping for a more Pittsburgh-y experience, but while many locations are mentioned, none of it really felt integral to the story.

The Kindle edition needs to be hit with the editing stick; lots of “the worse” instead of “the worst,” along with other slight annoyances that make the work feel unpolished. Also, I think the description of what Lyons refers to as “MRPGs” is a bit… well, uninformed. MMORPGs aren’t generally controlled by a single DM, at least, not the fully rendered ones. It’s like the author just transferred pen-and-paper RPGs into “cyberspace” and decided that’s how things were. That kept throwing me out of the suspension of disbelief.

In the end, I just had to know what happened, but it’s not a story that’s going to stick with me, nor am I especially compelled to seek out Lyons’s other work. Perhaps, though, I should emphasize again that this is not a genre I normally read, so you may take my review with a grain of salt.