Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Trouble by Jesse Kellerman

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Trouble by Jesse Kellerman. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Trouble by Jesse Kellerman

Trouble by Jesse Kellerman

Putnam (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-399-15403-5 (0399154035)
ISBN-13: 978-0-399-15403-4 (9780399154034)
Publication Date: January 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Young, idealistic, and overworked, Jonah is living the lonely life of a medical student in New York City when he accidentally stumbles across a murder in progress: a woman, being stabbed to death in the middle of the sidewalk. Without thinking, he rushes in to protect her-inadvertently killing her attacker in the process.

Thrust into the media spotlight, crushed by guilt, Jonah quickly learns that heroism isn't all it's cracked up to be. He receives a shower of unwanted attention-and hostility-from his superiors. The district attorney wants to "interview" him. The family of the dead man wants revenge.

Everything is further upended when the woman whose life he saved shows up at his apartment. What begins as a thank-you drink turns into a wildly passionate love affair. As their relationship deepens, however, Jonah realizes that she isn't quite the woman she appears to be. His nightmare has only begun, and the price of kindness will turn out to be higher than he could have imagined.

Review: Trouble is Jesse Kellerman's second published book, a thriller that is at best an achievement of style over substance.

Jonah Stem is a medical student in upper Manhattan who, returning home after a particularly grueling day in surgery, encounters a man holding a knife over a woman who has been repeatedly stabbed. Realizing she may die without immediate medical attention, he fends off her attacker who is accidentally stabbed with the knife and dies. Though the woman recovers, Jonah soon finds he's being sued by the dead man's family. To deal with the stress of his medical studies and the pending lawsuit, he turns to Eve Gones, the woman whose life he saved, who has suddenly and unexpectedly turned up in his life. But as he learns more about this mysterious woman, he realizes that she can only complicate his life. When he tries to end their relationship, he finds she will do anything to prevent him from doing so.

Kellerman is an accomplished writer who brings his own style to the narrative. He credibly evokes the strain and stress students of medical school face, the long hours, the lack of respect and indifference from superiors. He's created a complex character with Jonah Stem, and allows the reader to experience the various frustrations in his life: his former fiancée and her father, the endless hours of medical school, his roommate, the lawsuit, and finally, his relationship with Eve Gones. The use of sentence fragments, interfused dialog, even spacing between words on the page, all combine to create the sense of confusion and vexation that Jonah is experiencing. Stylistically, it's exceptionally well done.

Trouble, however, is anything but original. It's not even a good derivative. Kellerman has done virtually nothing to inject anything different or unique into this plot outline, which has been used as the basis for any number of books and screenplays for years. A movie in particular immediately comes to mind. One knows absolutely where this story is heading, and once a scene opens can accurately predict how it will end. Even with the denouement, where the author had a final chance to introduce a twist or something novel, he played it safe and went with the standard ending. It's disappointing that someone with so obvious a talent for composition couldn't trouble himself to come up with something original to write about.

Special thanks to Penguin Group (USA) Inc. for providing an ARC of Trouble for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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