The Target by Catherine Coulter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was hopeful about Coulter’s THE TARGET (second of a series) because I’d enjoyed her gothics so much back in the day, but this novel, even more than the previous one, THE MAZE, had some deep issues without the unique crime angle.
Editorial absence: There were so many confusingly vague sentences, plot errors, timeline errors and reality issues that I kept putting on my editor hat and gnashing my teeth. I wondered if Ms. Coulter’s editor had developed Jane Auel syndrome, an affliction in which an editor is afraid to actually edit a very popular author. (The author may not even want or be aware of this happening, by the way.)
Fits and starts plotting: More than once, the plot reached a point at which the entire cast was breathing sighs of relief and saying, “It’s over, at last.” From the reader’s POV, it was clearly not over. Bad guys were still on the loose, murderous movers and shakers still had a vendetta going, the main characters were still in danger. These people were mostly seasoned crime-fighters (FBI agents and a judge) and should’ve known better. Those elements can’t be thrust aside just because the writer has a character say, “Oh, Really Awful Criminal wouldn’t continue to strike back.”
All of the above contributed to an overall sense of Puppet Master Syndrome in which characters do things just because the writer needs them to do them at this point in the plot. As a result it was sometimes hard to get a handle on the personalities of the characters.
Unclear and unrealistic action sequences: Example: at one point the hero has dived into the ocean from a pier and is pursuing a criminal. Criminal shoots hero in the shoulder, yet the hero is able to hold the criminal in a headlock and tread water with one useless arm. He is fully clothed and wearing shoes and his injured arm is described as hanging down, with blood streaking down his arm and his shirt plastered to the wound … though our hero would have to be up to his neck in sea water in order to maintain the headlock on the criminal. This is not my experience with the way bodies behave in water. This got more complicated when we suddenly realize the hero’s family and others are watching from directly above on the pier and then, equally suddenly, “two men were in the water.” You realize a sentence or two later that the two men referenced are not the hero and the criminal but two FBI agents who have jumped in to offer assistance.
In any story that relies on action sequences, it’s important for the reader to be able to visualize the scene in which action is taking place. In the above sequence and others like it (including sex scenes) I had to keep stopping and going back to revise my take on what was happening because I was supplying all the details.
And finally, the reason I wanted to read the book was because of Savich and Sherlock but they were rarely in it. The main relationship tension was between the new characters Ramsey, Molly and Emma whom, I gather, got their own series. Though they are the focus, left unresolved, after drawing attention to it repeatedly, was Molly’s sense that Ramsey married her because he had become attached to her little girl, Emma. I totally get her uncertainty, under the circumstances, but it was disappointing not to have Ramsey set her straight, given how many times it came up.
I probably will try more of Coulter’s detective fiction, but not just now. Or I may just go back to enjoying her gothics.
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