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McAuley, Paul - 'Players'
Trade Paperback: 400 pages (Feb. 2007) Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd ISBN: 0743276183

When a girl is found, naked and fatally injured in a forest in Cedar Falls, Oregon, rookie Portland detective Summer Zeigler is dragged in to notify the girl's parents. Then the girl's boyfriend is found dead in the Nevada desert and it seems he's the latest victim of a serial killer. Summer and her counterpart in Cedar Falls think the deaths are related to a role-playing computer game and somehow to the game's creator, the mysterious and reclusive Dirk Merrit. But how do they prove it when the Cedar Falls police think they already have the killer in custody? And can they act quickly enough to save the next victim?

While the premise of this book was interesting, and I liked the link with the computer game, I did find that the book lacked tension. You know pretty much from the start of the book that Dirk Merrit is killing these people with the aid of his driver, and what follows with the manipulative Merritt luring the detectives into danger is pretty much a given in this type of book. However I was expecting some kind of twist in the plot at the end and there just wasn't one. It is difficult to maintain tension in the plot if you are one step ahead of the detectives at all stages. The only question becomes whether or not they can capture, or otherwise bring to justice, the killers before another victim is ensnared. The nature of the genre is such that it is fairly obvious that Merrit will get his comeuppance in the end.

That said the characters were interesting and the author, a Brit, has managed to give an authentic American flavour to the book. I would not have known he was British if I hadn't been told.

I'm not sure if this is a standalone thriller or the start of a series, but I think Summer Zeigler would bear further investigation, hopefully with a more intriguing plot to work with.

Read another review of PLAYERS.

Pat Austin, England
March 2007

Pat blogs at Mysterious Yarns.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 27/11/2011 10:23