Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: "Skeleton Key" by Jeff LaFerney

I'm not sure how I ended up with Skeleton Key by Jeff LaFerney on my Kindle, but there it was. So I read the faith-based, paranormal mystery story that is doing well in the "sports" sub-sub-sub-sub genre on Amazon. My protag runs. Perhaps, I too, can get into this category somehow. Bottom line: the weird paring of genres works. I'm not much for paranormal involvement in the solving of a crime, and it took a small dose of butt-glue to keep me interested in this aspect of the story, but LaFerney handles it well.

Aside from the paranormal "mind powers" possessed by the protagonist (Clay Thomas) and his son (Tanner), there is a strong dose of faith and positivism injected into a story by the love interest (Erika Payne) that brushes up against, but never crosses the line of feeling pushy. Unusual characters, both past and present, fill the story: a midget with incredible dexterity, a squirrel who gets what he deserves, a pain-in-the-ass ghost, and a deputy straight from the-gang-that-couldn't-shoot straight. The story was well-constructed, peeling back the layers of a seven-year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance and murder of Erika's ne'er do well husband, Adrian, to reach the climax. What was missing? Well, the tension in the story never reached a sharp edge despite many opportunities to bring this to the "OMG, I can't go to sleep now" level. Only one scene really caught me by total surprise - midget breaking window. I think this is where the paranormal aspect (mind control, ability to snatch images from the future, clarifications from the ghost) hurt the story, allowing us to be prepared for some eventualities. If everyday humans solved this mystery, this might have been a "5". I wonder if Tanner saw the solid "4" coming from me?


Guilie said...

Sounds interesting... Too bad about the tension, huh? I suffer from chronic blindness to it in my own work (as if you didn't know, haha), but it annoys me no-end when a book lacks it.

Thanks for the review, Rick!

Rick Bylina said...

I suspect most authors suffer when writing about how and when to apply the tension to the story. I read far too many who allow the chapter end go pffffft. When it could easily go BANG! And tension doesn't necessarily mean violence, explosions, or death. A character left having to make a heart-wrenching decision is also tension. Write on!