Death On a High Floor by Charles Rosenberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
SPOILER ALERT: SOME OF THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
This is a good novel, but suffers from believability issues. It reminded me of television police/court dramas, without the melodrama.
The problem stemmed from the narrator. We never get a legitimate explanation of why he trusts Ms. James (his defense counsel, also a suspect in the investigation of the murder). Perhaps even more serious is the constant nag in the back of my mind that this was a police set-up all along. My first clue? Early in the novel, the investigating officer insinuates that Ms. James should be a suspect but she is never investigated. That is in addition to the removal of the narrator's jacket. Then, clues of this conspiracy get dropped over and over with only a clueless shrug from the narrator: and this is told in past tense.
If a narrator tells a story in first person in the past tense and only drops HINTS of clues without some explanation makes that narrator untrustworthy. I understand that it would ruin the suspense, the reveal, but it is also cheap and dishonest. Either it needed a different narrator, a different voice, or a change of the circumstances.
Throughout the novel, we are led down the path of "Jenna might have done it....NAHH!! She would never do that!" Over and over again. The thing is, even at the end, we know she is not pristine, but we can't pinpoint what she has done wrong. She is painted as a femme fatale, a role playable by Angelina Jolie or Ali Larter. But, the author never comes full circle, never exposes her rougher side: it is always hinted at. And we never get the full picture of her uncle, either. Maybe the author is saving this for the next book, which might make sense. The reader, though, has the sense that we need to feel that she COULD have done it, but that she didn't and her motive to defend the narrator is her way of getting retribution for the murder of her lover.
In the end, the novel is good, but flawed. With the feel of a made-for-television court drama, the pacing of Grisham and Patterson with unique narrative voice, DEATH ON A HIGH FLOOR is a book I can recommend.
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