Review: Knife Music by David Carnoy

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It’s a strange coincidence that I happened to finish this particular book right after I explained to John why I have trouble reviewing books. See, I tend to group books into two categories: books I couldn’t even be bothered to finish and books I like. I can’t review a book I haven’t finished and it’s near pointless to review a book if you only think of positive things to say about all of them. I have trouble listing a book’s flaws, even if I’m well aware of them, because, if it entertained me, I think it did its job. Writing is a form of art and the first job of art is to bring pleasure. Beyond that, everything else is extra.

Knife Music, though, let me down to an extent that it overshadowed the enjoyment I got out of the first half of the book. It started with such a promise: a solid cast of characters, complex and carefully defined, as well as a clear and interesting plot. For the first dozen chapters or so I was extremely engaged. The problem, however, is that the first dozen chapters are mostly back story. Once the story gets going, in the present, it went all wrong.

The book is billed as a mystery. The plot is pretty straight-forward: a 16 year old girl, Kristen, gets into a car accident and ends up in the OR of trauma surgeon Dr. Ted Cogan. Ted and Kristen exchange words a few times but their relationship seems pretty on the level. Nothing serious or intimate. Jump to five months later and Kristen has killed herself. Entries in her diary suggest that she had a sexual relationship with Dr. Cogan and killed herself because he snubbed her. At least that’s the case that the local Homicide detectives are building.

In my opinion, this is the first place the book goes wrong. The main detective on the case is Hank Madden, a man who has a hatred and phobia of doctors. When he was a child he was raped by his doctor while being treated for polio. This fact is well known, it was even written about in the local newspapers when he made detective. His superiors know about his obvious bias and yet they put him on a case where he cannot possibly be objective. This is the part in the story when I had to say, out loud, “Oh, please.”

It gets worse from there when Ted Cogan, the suspect, starts doing better police work than the actual police. In effort to clear his name, Cogan is investigating the case in secret. He discovers the possibility that there may be more to the story than what was written in Kristen’s diary. Something that the police should have been looking into from the beginning. Something they didn’t even consider, though, because they’re painfully incompetent as well as heavily biased.

Then, just when I thought I couldn’t get more annoyed with the way the story was going, there’s a twist at the end. A twist so mind-bogglingly unnecessary that it made me angry. I’m still angry about it right now, in fact. The author ties everything up all neat and then feels the need to throw another curve ball into the mix. As a rookie, I know a rookie mistake when I see one.

Ultimately, I can only recommend this book to a certain sort of person. If you are good at suspending your disbelief, it is very possible that you could enjoy this book. I have an inability to let myself enjoy something if I find a flaw with it. But that’s my problem, it doesn’t have to be yours.

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