Starving Review: The Collector (A Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Book) by Steven M. Moore

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The Collector (A Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Book) by Steven M. Moore (Amazon, Goodreads)

I certainly hope I don’t start a riot in the crowd once more, because we have another dish from the pantry that is not technically the first volume in a series.  However, once again, I have been assured by the chef that this is a solo dish, one that doesn’t need to be served in the proper order of courses in the larger meal.  After my last experience, I was a bit more dubious.  However, recalling the time I had spent with many of the classic pulps of years past, I decided to crack open the box and see if this modern-day mystery/thriller didn’t leave me wanting.

Before we delve into the depths of this mystery, let us recite the Starving Review pledge:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible

To get the big question out of the way, *this* is how you cook up a series where each book stands on its own.  As I chewed my way through The Collector, I was never lost or confused.  Mr. Moore has done an excellent job in evoking past meals he has created while succinctly adding the flavor of familiarity to each call-back to previous meals.  It takes an even hand and a skillful pen to do that, so kudos are definitely deserved there.

That is all well and good, but how does this mystery/thriller stand up as, well, a mystery/thriller?  As always, we must look at the core ingredients of the meal: characterization, plot, and pacing.  So, in that order, characters!  The chef didn’t skimp here to make his job of series writing easier.  Our main protagonist duo are exceptionally well-written, seeming to step off the page.  Moore doesn’t hold back much in terms of the secondary cast either, filling them out as well as any of the main characters.

Plot is a vital ingredient when it comes to the mystery/thriller genre.  It’s possible to have a weak series of characters bolstered by a great mystery into being a masterpiece.  Again, the chef here shows his expertise, blending foreshadowing, subtle clues, and a keen understanding of how police work, well, works to keep the reader constantly on their toes.  If I have any fault with the plot, it’s in the ending.  I can’t be very specific due to SPOILERS!, but the conclusion is realistic in the leaving of loose ends, which left my natural desire for a clean finish unsated.  However, this is certainly a matter of personal opinion and I can see why the chef made this decision in the recipe.

Along with the well-baked plot, The Collector dances along at a brisk but not overwhelming pace.  Moments of action and suspense are spaced between moments of reflection and character-building, making for a smooth and creamy blend that went down easily.

There’s been a lot of praise for this meal so far and rightfully so!  However, I do have one quibble with the style of the book.  Mr. Moore utilizes a strange (to me, anyway) perspective, writing much of the book from the first-person perspective of Castilblanco.  However, regularly the point-of-view changes to the third-person perspective of various other characters, dancing through almost all the major players at various points and a variety of minor characters.  This isn’t technically wrong, I suppose, but I always find such things jarring.

This isn’t because of the shift of point-of-view character.  That’s common and expected.  It comes down to the shifting from 1st to 3rd person perspective and back again.  It is jarring as it makes it impossible to see the book as a retelling or recollection or any other storytelling device that gives it a certain weight of reality.  Now, this doesn’t ruin The Collector, no, not at all … but it did take me out of the story enough that it leaves it shy of perfection.

So, down to the final decision!  The Collector is a near-perfect slice of mystery, with flavorful characters and a punchy plot!  If you want a good mystery, I wholeheartedly suggest you pick this one up, even if you haven’t read any of the other books.  Taking this as a sample of the rest of the series, I think I can safely endorse the rest of them as well.

As always, until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

FINAL VERDICT: **** (A near-perfect slice of mystery, with flavorful characters and a punchy plot!)

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