I'm going to be quick, because it's late and I'm bushed—also, the more I talk about this, the less I seem to like the book. Which isn't fair—I do like it—but I have issues with it, too. You ever see the memes or jokes online about someone saying they have 6-pack abs, but they're just hiding/protecting them under a layer of fat? That's precisely how this book seems to be constructed.
Picking up some weeks after Cause and Effect: Vice Plagues the City, Jack "Jane" Austen is prepared to come back to work, when something happens to compel him to come back. A priest and an imam are violently murdered, with clear indications that the same people behind these attacks were those responsible for the conspiracy uncovered in Cause and Effect, to cause unrest (at least) between the stagnant Christians and the local Muslims, and hopefully spilling over into a large-scale societal unrest.
You'd think this would be enough to bring Jack back early, so he could try to prevent things from getting worse—and he does. He just has to be eccentric for a while in front of his staff, purposely getting himself in trouble and provoking his new Chief. Because that's what the situation calls for, I guess. I'm glad we're told over and over again how brilliant he is, and what a good cop, too—because you might miss it otherwise.
It's a shame we spend so much time with Jack and Mandy off doing all sorts of non-police things (read: sex, talking about sex, and mooning over each other), because the rest of Jack's team are some truly interesting characters, and it'd be great to see them work. We catch little glimpses of them at work (and some brief idea about their off-duty life), and I think this novel told about them instead of Jack and Mandy would be a much more interesting work.
The word that kept coming to mind (and my notes) as I read this was "self-indulgent." Adams clearly enjoys talking about some things and making the same jokes—he made one 3 times in the first 4% of the book (and countless times in the other 96%). We get pages and pages of Jack and Mandy romancing each other (and at least one of their subordinates makes a pointed remark about their priorities), of Jack going out of his way to be obnoxious, and other assorted things that seem to actually hinder the investigation. Now Adams is far from the first to be this way—Robert Galbraith's latest could use a good trim (of about 150-200 pages), as did many of Robert P. Parker's later works. So the fact that I want to cut about 300 pages from this book puts him in some okay company. In those 300 pages, little happens t advance the plot and we don't deepen our understanding of the characters, because it covers the same ground over and over and over (again, see later Parker).
All that said, the last 25%± of the novel is really good. Almost all of the weaknesses of the book that had been bugging me faded into the background and the crime story came to the forefront (finally). This is the kind of thing I'd been waiting for. If the book was this part, plus another 50 or so pages to set the scene, create a tone, and whatnot—this would be a much more enthusiastic post. As it is, this last chunk of the book redeems the rest and almost makes it worth the effort to get your hands on the book.
Am I still curious about where things are going, and how Adams plans to get there? Absolutely. I will keep reading—and I did enjoy these books, I just wish they'd be put on a diet so I don't have to trudge through all the excess material.
My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.