Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Book Review: As the Twig is Bent by Joe Perrone Jr.

Review Copy Supplied by Author
As the Twig is Bent
by Joe Perrone Jr.
3 Stars

Someone is killing women in the Chelsea district of Manhattan - but, who? The only clues: a signature heart carved into each victim's breast (inside, the initials "J.C." and those of the deceased); copies of the New Testament (with underlined passages referring to infidelity); and fingerprints of a juvenile arrested in the 1960s. On the case is Matt Davis, a plodding but effective NYPD homicide detective who is addicted to fly fishing - and chocolate. Helping him is his one-quarter Mohawk Indian partner, Chris Freitag, to whom he owes a long-standing debt of gratitude. Complicating things is Rita Valdez, a female cop looking for "true love," and not too particular about where she finds it. "As the Twig is Bent" is an explosive thriller that rips the lid off the sordid underbelly of Internet chat rooms, and propels the reader on a no-holds-barred journey toward its bone-chilling conclusion. CAUTION: Contains graphic sexual material that is inappropriate for some readers.


I love mysteries, particularly those that have clues leading up to the culprit, rather than the culprit just appearing out of nowhere. Joe Perrone's book is the former, with clues dotted throughout as to 'whodunnit' but as well as the who, the author delves into the why of the killer, which adds quite a bit of depth. Unfortunately I did guess 'whodunnit' quite a bit before the end. We could have had a few more red herrings in the narrative to make it that bit more difficult to guess.

The opening scenes contrast vividly, with a husband coming back from a business trip and worried by the storm as the plane is buffeted about along with the very explicit rape, torture and murder of his wife, as he remains unawares. The author doesn't shy away from describing things in graphic detail, some were a little bit too detailed for my taste, but then we are dealing with a serial killer here and not the local church fete. Things are bound to get ugly, and they do.

All the women have been murdered by someone they met in internet chat rooms and invited them back to their apartment while their husbands were away on business or were soldiers on tours of duty. I'm not sure how realistic it is, would women really invite strangers to their home? It certainly brings home some of the dangers inherent in today's society, for you don't really know who you're talking to in the chat rooms, you can only go by what they say.

I like the author's style of simple language, but the pace of the book could have been a lot better. Just as the crimes are becoming more frequent, we spend quite a bit of time on the detective's day off as he goes fly-fishing with his wife. Now, I get that the character enjoys fishing and all of that, but I was in the middle of reading a murder-mystery and we suddenly get bogged down with details of what's the best bait, the best place on the river and all the attendant things to do with fishing. It doesn't help that I have a phobia about fish and I did not want to read anything about fishing, especially not nearly a whole chapter. It was a scene that I felt didn't need to be there, but maybe that's just me.

It was an interesting read, but some scenes could have been culled a bit more - especially the aforementioned fishing scene and do we really need chapter on verse on how Rita Valdez gets ready for a night out? There were pages of things that had got nothing to do with the investigation, such as golf (although one part of those scenes do connect to the killer), but the investigation is what I wanted to read about - how they figured out who murdered all those women, not about the personal lives of the detectives. A sentence or paragraph here and there would have been fine, but not whole scenes of their private lives.

It's good, but could have been so much better with a firmer hand on the editing.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

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