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Definitely not Steven James' best
on July 22, 2012
I just recently discovered author Steven James, and The Knight is his fourth book that I've read in the past two weeks. So it's pretty obvious that I'm hooked. His books are a captivating blend of edge-of-your-seat suspense, characters who are authentic and believable and dialogue that is witty and fun. His stories are typically on the longish side -- 500 pages of small print -- but they are fast reading because they are so hard to put down.
All that being said, not even the best writers -- and Steven James is among them -- can hit a home run every time. I won't go so far as to call The Knight a strike-out -- it's still far better than most of the other thriller/suspense books out there. But having read 4 of the 5 Patrick Bowers books, I will say this one is definitely the weakest installment in the series, for several reasons.
For one thing, there is too little real action and way too much focus on the serial killer's "game" of patterning his murders after stories in The Decameron (no spoiler here, since this is revealed fairly early in the book). Maybe real-life serial killers do get so wrapped up in such fantasy games? But for me the elaborateness and outlandishness of the killer's scheme, and the way Bowers and the other detectives and investigators got so caught up in it, felt very gimmicky, even corny. It was like reading about one of the campy villains on the old Batman TV series I used to watch when I was a kid. All Giovanni was missing was a costume.
Another weakness in the book was the lack of any resolution at the end. It is typical of a Steven James thriller to have numerous storylines going on all at once, but in The Knight there was a marked absence of any resolution to any of them. The apprehension of Giovanni, the trial of Richard Devin Basque, Tessa's search for her father, and Bowers' relationships with Cheyenne and Lien-hua, all were left unresolved at the end of the book. I realize this book is part of a series and the storylines will continue in the next book (which is the only one in the series I haven't yet read); however, there should still be some degree of resolution to at least some of the storylines in every book, otherwise the reader is left feeling let down, almost cheated. At least that's how I felt at the end of The Knight: definitely dissatisfied.
The other major weakness in this book was the main villain, Giovanni. As a true psychopath who began committing murder at age 11 despite being raised in a seemingly good and loving home, he is the most seriously warped of any of Steven James' villains. And yet, when his true identity was revealed at the end, it was so far-fetched that I just couldn't buy it. It is almost as though James cared more about creating a surprising twist to shock his readers than about creating something believable. That a lifelong psychopath like Giovanni could have pursued the career path he did, for so long and without any signs of his true nature ever being detected, just didn't fly for me.
Despite my overall disappointment with The Knight, I still consider Steven James one of the best writers out there and I look forward to reading more of his books.