Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Book Review: Hit the Road Jack by Willow Rose

Constant Action Pits Detective against Killer … But You Pay a Heavy Price for the Drama

I won’t need a spoiler to illustrate the type of action in this book; the synopsis will do fine. “But, when his black Labrador suddenly runs upstairs and comes down with a finger in his mouth, Ben knows he's not making it to school today at all.” That murder comes in Chapter 3, after another killing in Chapters 1 and 2, one chapter written from the victim’s point of view, the other from the killer’s. If you’re getting the idea that author Willow Rose has packed a lot of violent action into Hit the Road Jack, I’d agree. Besides those two murders, there’s a date rape, a suicide, and several other gruesome murders by a serial killer known only as the Snakecharmer throughout most of the story.

At the opposite end of the wholesome to vile continuum, we have our hero, Detective Jack Ryder. He’s a surf-loving, single father of three, one of them a black, teenage girl adopted when his partner was killed. He’s handsome (of course). And because he’s an experienced detective from a more violent city, he becomes the go-to investigator for his homicide unit in a small, county sheriff’s department. This situation anchors the primary plotline of the book, one that crime thriller readers will readily recognize: the virtuous detective single-handedly pursues the despicable serial killer through a series of heinous crimes amid a budding romance.

The best of the genre places the hero in this detective vs. killer setting using clever twists of fate and provide some basis for the sex. Less well-written books ride roughshod over common sense and unfortunately, Hit the Road Jack falls uncomfortably close to the latter group. When a child is abducted, Ryder doesn’t send out an Amber Alert or instigate any type of city or state-wide notification. That would spoil the one-on-one theme. When the killing escalates and it’s clear there is a serial killer, no other city, state, or federal agencies get involved. When someone takes a shot at Ryder, he doesn’t make an officer-under-fire call. Nor does he call for support to locate or apprehend the shooter. Rather, when he stumbles on the gunman’s truck at a motel, he goes in with an unarmed civilian (his new romantic interest) as his only backup. And so on. We, as readers, are asked to suspend disbelief much too frequently for my liking.

Overall, the book’s primary storyline is a bit stereotypic but appealing, and the breaks from common sense and police practice are disguised by constant, violent action. But if you’re the type of reader who wants a clever blending of fact and fiction, you may want to look elsewhere.

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