Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a review of Playing Dead

Playing Dead by Allison Brennan

15 years ago, police officer Tom O'Brien was convicted of killing his cheating wife and her lover, shooting them in bed after he comes home from work in the middle of the day and finds them together. Even worse, from his point of view, is the fact that his daughter walks in and see him and the dead bodies and believes that he is guilty of the crime. But, of course, he is not; rather he is the victim of an elaborate frame. Just weeks before his scheduled execution, he escapes from prison during an earthquake. While attempting to elude capture by the FBI, he has two goals; first to follow up on the visit from a law student who claims he has evidence of O'Brien's innocence, and most importantly, to try to convince his now grown and PI investigator daughter that he did not kill her mother.
Actually, the two goals will mesh, because, of course, the daughter will want to get involved in the investigation. A dangerous situation for all..

This is the third book in Brennan's 'Prison Break' series, and while I did not read the previous two, from what I can gather that should not have been an issue. O'Brien was not the only prisoner who escaped in that earthquake and the other two books, while having some overlap of characters, like FBI agent Mitch Bianchi, tell some tales of these other escapees.

Did I mention issues? Well, yes, I did, because while on the surface this is the sort of book that is right up my alley, sadly I can't say that I enjoyed it a great deal. The reason comes down mainly to the characters. First, there were too many. As the story unfolds, in what I found a rather confusing way, there were any number of indistinct minor characters that were hard to keep straight, with a number of interconnected subplots that were also hard to keep straight. I really don't think it was just
But the main problem comes down to the main characters, his daughter Claire and Agent Bianchi. I just never really felt connected to them nor bought into their connection to each other. The evidence to support that just was not there for me and without it, I had a problem staying interested in the outcome.

The other issue has to do with something I have discussed in reviews of suspense genre books before. To my mind, what raises a book from the mediocre to the very good is the twists and turns the author entices us on. We find ourself being led one way...only to discover the path leads, very cleverly, somewhere else altogether. Facts are given, hints dropped, that have us saying when the story reaches the conclusion “But of course! Why didn't I see it...of course, he/she did it!”
Such is not the case in this book. It plods forward and reaches a conclusion that just seemed overly complicated and not 'fair' from what we were told throughout the story. But by that point, I really wasn't all that interested.

I have heard good things about Brennan's earlier books, especially her first series The Hunt, The Prey and The Kill. She is a nice writer, with a clear fluid style, so perhaps I will go back and give those books a try in the future.
As to Playing Dead....just an Ok book for me.

Available from Amazon


  1. Boy, that plot sounded good. Too bad it didn't live up to it's potential.

  2. yep...and also because I hate to write less than glowing reviews...really


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