Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: Gun Games

Summary: Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus are back in this gripping mystery involving a secret cabal of some of Los Angeles’ most wealthy—and vicious—teens 

LAPD lieutenant detective Decker and his wife, Rina, have willingly welcomed fifteen-year-old Gabriel Whitman, the son of a troubled former friend, into their home. While the enigmatic teen seems to be adapting easily, Decker knows only too well the secrets adolescents keep—witnessed by the tragic suicide of another teen, Gregory Hesse, a student at Bell and Wakefield, one of the city’s most exclusive prep schools. 

Gregory’s mother, Wendy, refuses to believe her son shot himself and convinces Decker to look deeper. What he finds disturbs him. The gun used in the tragedy was stolen—evidence that propels him to launch a full investigation with his trusted team, Sergeant Marge Dunn and Detective Scott Oliver. But the case becomes darkly complicated by the suicide of another Bell and Wakefield student—a death that leads them to uncover an especially nasty group of rich and privileged students with a predilection for guns and violence. Decker thought he understood kids, yet the closer he and his team get to the truth, the clearer it becomes that he knows very little about them, including his own charge, Gabe. The son of a gangster and an absent parent, the boy has had a life filled with too much free time, too many unexplained absences, and too little adult supervision. 

Before it’s over, the case and all its terrifying ramifications will take Decker and his detectives down a dark alley of twisted allegiances and unholy alliances, culminating at a heart-stopping point of no return. -- William Morrow

Prior to my blogging days, I used to read Faye Kellerman's Decker/Lazarus novels religiously. I loved the detective skills of Peter and Rina as well as the side stories about their married life and their religion. It's been a few years since I've picked up one of these novels, but I decided that the new release GUN GAMES would be a great book to determine if this series was everything I remembered it to be.

And I have to say, in many ways, GUN GAMES was a good read for me and did bring back some very fond memories of these characters. I appreciated Ms. Kellerman's skills at weaving a sound mystery with some exciting twists and turns; and I truly did think the mystery aspect of this story was above average. However, if I'm being entirely honest, there were some things about GUN GAMES that left me a little disappointed.

First of all, a very large portion of this book dealt with the story of Gabe, a 15 year old boy who came to live with Peter and Rina after his troubled parents no longer could care for him. It's not that I didn't like Gabe, because I did... a lot. It's just that so much of GUN GAMES read like a teenage romance. Gabe falls very hard for a girl and the book just seems to go on and on and their feelings towards each other. I actually got tired of reading about his teenage boy desires as well as their gushy text messages. Maybe I'm just cold-hearted (or too old), but I felt these aspects of the story were a little over-the-top for an adult book.

And another "issue" I had with this book (which kind of piggybacks on the Gabe one) is that I felt as if Peter and definitely Rina could have played larger roles. In the prior books that I've read in this series, I remember Peter being more hands on with his detecting skills. (Of course, he had to recuse himself from much of the police work in GUN GAMES because of his involvement with Gabe.) But what I really loved about many of the older stories is that Rina helped Peter solve the crimes. In GUN GAMES, Rina was still the character I've come to know and love, but she was a bit flat and one dimensional. She was almost a secondary character and she didn't play an active role in any of the crime solving. It was kind of a disappointment for me.

Having said these things, it might be my fault for not reading HANGMAN, the book where Gabe's story was introduced. I think I have a copy of that book around here some place, and I'm wondering if I had read it first, I would have been less inclined to feel this way about GUN GAMES. I definitely want to read HANGMAN soon because Gabe's father sounds intriguing to say the least -- he's part organized crime, party brothel owner, and seems to not have much of a conscience. I have a feeling that the mystery and characters in that novel might appeal to me a bit more than the ones in GUN GAMES.

I do feel as if I should make one thing clear before I end this review. I did enjoy GUN GAMES. It just had a few flaws in my opinion. If I focus on just the mystery aspect of the story, I actually appreciated GUN GAMES a great deal. I found the dynamics of the teen criminals to be extremely interesting and I loved the ending of the novel which focused primarily on the crime. When Peter, Marge and Oliver started actively solving the case, I remembered just how much I loved Faye Kellerman's storytelling abilities.

While I don't think GUN GAMES is Ms. Kellerman's best, I do think fans of her past novels will appreciate this story.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have never tried a Kellerman book but I have always been meaning to. But I would want to start at the beginning!

bermudaonion said...

Can you believe I've never read Kellerman's work? I have a feeling I'd like it, teen romance and all. Great review!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I also have not read Kellerman but this one makes me want to give the books a try.

Happy New Year!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Back in my pre-blogging mystery-hoarding days, I did read some of these books. There must not have been enough there to keep me reading but they firmly sat in the category of "fun mystery". When it comes to these types of books, you do have to pick and choose, don't you?

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

I used to read both Faye Kellermen and her husbands books religiously too. I was always fascinated by the aspects of the Jewish religion and life that were included.
This story-line sounds so similar to the one several books back that included one of Peter and Rina's sons, but for the life of me I can't remember what the name was or the particulars. Wonderful review!

Jenners said...

I read one of these books but I mostly read her husband's books until I "grew" out of them.

Beth F said...

I like a fun mystery and despite the few flaws I'd like to give her a try.