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The Mentor Paperback – November 1, 2015
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About the Author
Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli was born in Carbonia, Italy. She has lived in Cagliari since 1993, earning a degree in biology and working as a writer, researcher, scientific and literary translator, and freelance web copywriter. Monticelli has authored L’isola di Gaia (The Isle of Gaia), Affinità d’intenti (Kindred Intentions), and the science fiction series Deserto rosso (Red Desert), which is also available in English. The Mentor is her sixth book.
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Top customer reviews
This month it's an Italian author, but the setting is Scotland Yard. Don't they have cops in Italy? To further confuse the issue, the characters are supposed to be English, but the slang, legal terminology, and easy access to firearms are all American. Muddy translation or an attempt to appeal to the American audience? Who knows.
The plot's good, if you don't mind violence and plenty of it. A family is brutally murdered in London and the only survivor is a small girl. Both she and the cop who carries her from the scene of carnage are forever scarred. Fast forward twenty years and Scotland Yard is called in on a series of murders that seem unrelated except for the presence of an ominous, androgynous figure in black. Then there's the troubling similarity to the poses and wounds of the long-ago victims.
Eric Shaw is head of the "scientific investigations department." Of course, all crime investigation now leans heavily on forensics and forensics specialists don't investigate crimes (except on television and in the movies.) And (rank inflation being what it is) the head of a major department in any police force would not hold the rank of "detective." He would be a superintendent or commander. And it's unlikely that his three top employees would all be female. The uneasy relationships of the women does, however, drive the plot.
The strong points of the book are the twisty plot and the interesting glimpses into how technology dominates police work - as it does every aspect of our lives now. It also examines police ethics at a time when that subject is very much in our minds. We're all in favor of law-and-order. We all want the bad guys punished. But our legal system protects both the innocent and the guilty. How far are police and prosecutors justified in bending the rules to convict people that they are convinced are guilty? Should they suppress evidence? Fake evidence?
It's an open secret that Shaw makes fingerprints appear where he wants them to get a conviction. Is he a forensics rock star or a dirty cop? What if one of his staff carries the process one step further? And what if they have the wrong guy?
To me, the weak point is Shaw's awkward obsession with his beautiful, enigmatic young employee Adele. I dislike the unholy marriage of romance novels and mysteries. Perry Mason and Sherlock Holmes concentrated on solving crimes. If they had personal problems, they didn't burden the reader with them. This book follows the predictable pattern for modern mysteries - a middle-aged hero (divorced or widowed) whose personal life is a wreck and who is (to his great embarrassment) attracted to a colleague young enough to be his daughter. The author must convince us that the young woman is the aggressor in the relationship. Then it's OK. Since this is the formula now, it must be what readers want.
Most of the writing is competent, although the romance is strained and unbelievable. You can do as I do and skim the parts about Shaw's personal life and read it for the mystery. Or you can enjoy the romance and skim the mystery or perhaps you like the combination. If so, you seem to have plenty of company. It's a fast and sometimes absorbing read. Since the end is deliberately nebulous, I'm assuming that it's intended to be the first in a series about these characters. If so, it will interesting to see how the story develops.
The main character, the ethically challenged, unlikeable Detective Eric Shaw, is a man who has somehow justified his reprehensible actions in altering evidence within the crime lab in order to obtain convictions of those he deems as guilty of crimes. He does this because otherwise they would not be convicted. And this is not a one-time thing. Oh, no. He does this regularly - to the point that others who work with him are aware of it. Yet they say nothing to anyone. Even the local criminals are aware of his unethical and criminal acts.
So the main character is an unethical criminal himself. Okay.... Oh, AND he is having an affair with an employee who is his underling. Giving her supportive hugs in the workplace. And some poor male underling at the crime lab who is trying to do his job right is continuously criticized by Shaw, who muses that the guy just doesn't "have enough character".
As for the series of murders being investigated, it is just so obvious as to who is committing them that the most novice of murder mystery readers would quickly figure it out. I don't know how you are, but once I know who did it, I just kind of "speed read" through the rest of the book. And that's pretty much what I did here.
This book is a translation from a foreign language writer. Unfortunately, here are numerous places where the choice of wording used was subtly wrong. Thus there will be a scene in which a character "chuckles" and yet the next sentence refers to their "hilarity".having disappeared. Characters are doing things like grimacing at inappropriate times. They are having facial expressions that are incongruous with what they are saying. It becomes noticeable and it is there throughout the book.
This was not a particularly good read. So far, one of the worst picks I've read in Kindle First.
Overall, a good read and possibly can be converted to a suspense movie.