No Rest for the Dead – Jeff Abbott, Lori Armstrong, Sandra Brown, Thomas Cook, Jeffrey Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, Andrew F. Gulli, Peter James, J.A. Jance, Faye Kellerman, Raymond Khoury, John Lescroart, Jeff Lindsay, Gayle Lynds, Phillip Margolin, Alexander McCall Smith, Michael Palmer, T. Jefferson Parker, Matthew Pearl, Kathy Reichs, Marcus Sakey, Jonathan Santlofer, Lisa Scottoline, R.L. Stine and Marcia Talley (2011, Simon & Schuster)
After I checked this book out of the library, I joked to one of my co-workers that it was a little “slender” given that it was written by 26 authors. She laughed and said she never read “gimmicks” such as this one; I shrugged, having never read a serial novel before and willing to give one a go. (If you’re worried about the novelty of it all, consider that the book was written for charity – most proceeds from sales will go to the American Leukemia and Lymphoma Society).
I must admit, however, that it wasn’t just the length of the book that was a bit disappointing. (Actually, the word count turned in just right – any more would have been truly unnecessary milking). I simply could not get fully engaged with the characters, and their story seemed…well…trite and predictable, a total no-no as far as mysteries are concerned. David Baldacci asserted in his introduction that there was a plot twist so extraordinary and huge that no one – absolutely NO ONE – would see it coming, but I swear I saw it on an episode of CSI a couple of years back, and I’m sure I had even encountered it in other books a time or two before THAT.
Ex-cop Jon Nunn is haunted by the execution a decade earlier of Rosemary Thomas, whose philandering museum curator/art dealer husband Christopher was found murdered in a particularly nasty and appropriate way. (Enter Kathy Reich’s detailed autopsy reports, a nifty touch). Nunn, whose testimony at Rosemary’s trial helped seal her fate, is obsessed with the idea that he made a fatal mistake, and he sees a way to redeem Rosemary’s name and scrape together some remnants of his life, which has completely nosedived since he botched the case. (He’s battling alcoholism and trying to win back his ex-wife. Of course he is). Rosemary had thoughtfully requested in her will that a memorial service be held ten years after her death, so all of the principles are gathered for the ceremony: Rosemary’s brother and guardian of her two children, Peter, a drunkard and convenient heir to all of Rosemary’s fortune; Belle, a struggling painter and Rosemary’s best friend; Don, Belle’s husband, a man with a criminal past and a violent temper; Haile and Justine, two of Christopher’s conquests; Sarah, Nunn’s stunningly-beautiful ex-wife, married to the greasy estate lawyer Stan Ballard; Tony Olsen, the big wig philanthropist who may or may not have an agenda; Artie Ruby, a former museum security guard who might have a little something-something happening on the side; and Hank Zacharias, a washed-up reporter looking for the scoop that will resurrect his career. See, you’ve met these people before, haven’t you? Motives and red herrings abound as the group assembles, and a few half-decent subplots are thrown in for good measure. There’s even a car chase, excellently wrought by Marcus Sakey. And some of the backstories of the principles are really very good: T. Jefferson Parker’s portrayal of Don, the supposedly reformed ex-con, is so exciting, I am eager to run out and check out Parker’s novels.
Regardless of my concerns about the predictability of the plot, the book is more than sound and well-worth purchasing for a good cause: the writing and editing is tight, the finish is clean, and the whole thing is satisfying enough to enjoy over a couple of long bubble baths. I just wanted…more.