Sunday, April 04, 2010

Book Review: "The Hand of Fate" by Lis Wiehl and April Henry

I know, I know. This is a scifi/fantasy site. But I have a weakness for detective fiction and sometimes I'm approached to review books for the site outside its specified genre and I can't help but accept. This one had the additional draw of being co-written by a television personality and I was really curious to see if it would live up to the hype... Jim Fate, a combative right-wing radio talk show host based in Portland Oregon, is killed by the release of a poison gas in his studio. Rumors of Sarin gas panic the city, fueling rumors of a terrorist attack. Investigating the crime is the "Triple Threat" club consisting of Federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI agent Nicole Hedges and TV reporter Cassidy Shaw. It doesn't take long when reading The Hand of Fate to realize it's a blatant rip-off of James Patterson's "Women's Murder Club" series; and since I wasn't a fan of Patterson's series, it's hard to get on board with the "Triple Threat" idea. The book suffers from a lot of problems both in plotting and execution. It tries to be too many things at once including elements of chick-lit, detective fiction, suspense and even inspirational fiction, but not doing any one thing very well. It's clear that co-author Lis Wiehl knows her way around a newsroom, but every other aspect of the book can only be described as derivative. It was a good idea to use the current political climate, and the popularity of polarizing radio personalities as inspiration, but there isn't a single story-line that is followed through to a credible conclusion. Real life events, such as the suicide of a controversial politician on live TV, are also used as fictional fodder but they're thrown in as an attempt to be topical and simply fall flat because they're not inventive-- they're simply included. Personal dramas of the three main characters were also added but it's done in a rote, sequential fashion and while they could have added depth to the story, they end up feeling calculated to draw an emotional response from the reader. Nothing in "The Hand of Fate" feels organically created. It seems like little more than an attempt to cash in on a moderately famous name, backed by the "recommendations" of her industry co-workers. I'm not politically for or against anything this book has to say. In fact, I'd say the writers tried to bend-over backward to avoid the impression of partiality to a liberal or conservative agenda. No. It isn't politics that undermined this book. It was its derivative, uninspired writing and plotting. The only way this series can work is that it needs to find an identity of it's own.

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