Despite some familiar territory, this crime thriller offers up unique characters, gritty violence, and more than a few dark surprises
A Life Removed, the new novel by Jason Parent, tells the story of a series of gruesome cult killings and the homicide detectives and police officers in charge of the investigation into the crimes. Detective Bruce Marklin is as short-tempered and as hardboiled as they come, while his partner, the ambitious Jocelyn Beaudette, offers a more restrained and subtle touch. Together, they probe a rash of serial murders haunting the city. Officer Aaron Pimental is the troubled police officer who gets wrapped up in the case and becomes a pawn in a twisted killer’s game of religious idolatry, murder, and human sacrifice.
The novel opens in striking fashion, with sharp detail, realistic dialogue, and gripping violence.
The murder of a prostitute is as tragic and forlorn as one could imagine, and the pages move at a fast, cinematic clip. The detectives enter the scene and have an engaging and easy rapport, playing off one another’s strengths as they begin to investigate the murder—one they believe may be linked to an earlier killing and that will most likely lead to more bodies unless they catch their culprit. The exposition is fairly generic, but Parent keeps the momentum going with lean prose and dialogue that drives the plot forward.
Transitioning between the detectives uncovering various clues and the friends and loved ones in Aaron’s inner circle, ‘A Life Removed’ is a swift and entertaining read; and for fans of disturbing crime thrillers or even horror novels, the book fits the bill, as the author has no qualms about having his characters commit multiple bloody deeds. Like a horror film that saves its most macabre scenes for last, ‘A Life Removed’ amps up the tension and the grisly details with each passing chapter until the multi-level climax brings the story to a satisfying close.
Readers interested in religious cults (or films such as David Fincher’s Seven or Brent Hanley’s Frailty) will find several plot points of interest here.
Wisely, Parent does not spend too much time detailing the back-story of the person or persons responsible for the killings, but readers quickly learn that the slayings have traces of religious or pseudo-spiritual motivation. As Officer Pimental gets dragged into the mystery of the murders and who committed them, he will be exposed to terrifying secrets and strange powers that stem from ancient history. And it is in the young police officer’s discoveries and reluctant involvement that the novel really shines and capitalizes on its morbid imagery and narrative. A Life Removed depicts just how far one man will be forced to go in order to save his own life and pursue his darkest desires.
The novel does have a few stumbles: the curse of the “talkative villain” appears in some of the more climactic scenes, while certain lines of dialogue seem either out of place or unrealistic for the situation. During brutal, life-or-death moments, characters engage in lengthy conversations, speak in articulate sentences, and use vivid imagery or even sarcastic quips. And Detective Marklin’s expletive-laced dialogue borders on the unintentionally comedic at times, turning him into the timeworn caricature of the aging, hard-nosed gumshoe.
But these complaints are minor when compared to Parent’s ability to tell a riveting story with multiple plot lines and interesting character arcs.
The final chapters of ‘A Life Removed’ lack the urgency and gritty thrills of earlier scenes in the book, but Jason Parent’s novel remains a crisp and explosive story—a well-written combination of the police procedural and serial killer sub-genres. In the end, the novel becomes less about the investigation led by the two detectives than about one man’s disturbing fall from grace and his inability to escape the grievous errors of his past.
About the Author:
In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso. You can learn more about Jason, his upcoming works and his appearances at authorjasonparent.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
Click here to read our interview with the author.