Title: The Murder Room
Author: Michael Capuszzo
The Back of the Book, the torturous tease she may be, said:
It was a great adventure for justice. Three of the world’s finest sleuths-an FBI agent turned private eye, a forensic artist and ladies’ man who speaks to the dead, and an eccentric profiler known as “the living Sherlock Holmes”-invited the greatest collection of ace detectives from around the world to track down the killers in the toughest unsolved murders, working pro bono to solve cold cases over a hot gourmet lunch.”
What a great concept, right? Modern-day Sherlock Holmses – who wouldn’t want to dive into that? I think box office stats demonstrate that the answer to that question is: approximately no one And this book does the movie one better because there are three Holmsian figures, central characters Bender, Fleisher, and Walter – nestled among a cadre of nearly one hundred Holmsian figures – the Vidocq Society. Oh and it’s all true. Seems beyond just a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. Seems even more awesome somehow, right? One would think . . . .
I hate to be all judgey and rude here, but this is a review after all so I’ll just put it out there. This book is poorly written. It really takes a master craftsman to trace three individuals through their respective upbringings amid occasionally overlapping unsolved crime story arcs fraught with meaningless yet unnecessarily over-sketched characters kneaded and overworked to the point of becoming blunt cliché caricatures left after the dead-horse beating bloodier than their own unvindicated victims.
Sadly for the hopeful reader, Capuzzo is no master craftsman. Like a drifty aging docent, he shepherd us through lofty rooms full of interesting people doing interesting things in interesting places, but through his own failure to focus on any one thing long enough to do it justice he is utterly incapable of holding our interest. Apparently sensing midway through the book that he may be losing us, Capuzzo tazes us with repeated hits from the horrible crime stun gun. Regaling us with details of heart-wrenchingly gruesome true-life cases before summarily dismissing them as frustratingly unsolvable by the purportedly “Holmsian” posse of Super Best Friends.
I’ll never understand how in the wide world a character can occupy the same breath as Sherlock Holmes when that character (or character(S) – all 98 of them!) fail to ever solve anything. How can that possibly be? This book makes you feel like a 17-year-old boy in the back seat of your parents’ parked car on prom night as your date is realizing she’s already past curfew. (What?! No! You’ve got to land the plane!)
OVERALL IMPACT ON MY FAITH IN HUMANITY
Harmful. The crimes were depressing, the characters’ inability to solve the crimes was more depressing, and the author’s inability to coalesce any of it into anything even remotely resembling a plotline was most depressing of all.