End Date: June 30th
Author: Brianna Labuskes
Pages: 287 (hardcover)
Selected By: Lady Esbe
“FBI special agent Clarke Sinclair doesn’t give up easily. She’s spent years tracking serial killer Simon Cross, forced to follow his twisted clues and photographs across the country. Clarke knows that Cross selects only redheaded women and that he doesn’t target another victim until Clarke discovers the previous one.
“He’s never broken pattern… until now.
“A girl has already gone missing in upstate New York when a second one is kidnapped – a blonde. The killer’s MO has changed, sending Clarke back to the drawing board. The closer she gets to the truth, the deeper she’s drawn into an inescapable trap made just for Clarke. Whatever Cross’s ultimate game is, it ends with her.”
Elle Tea phrased it perfectly, “I’m looking for a crime/mystery novel that is Silence of the Lambs good”. Alas, we did not find that in this novel. There are some little spots of sunshine, in a morbid sort of way. But mostly, I found only frustration in desiring for this to deliver on a completely different level than what it did. I found more fault that good here, but the good managed to keep this from being a one (1) or a zero for me.
My first point of contention is our protagonist, Clarke. What I want more than anything from authors is to lend some authenticity to your novels if you are writing something like say, police/fed procedurals or even military (I’ve found a lot of authors who want to pay homage to or use the military as a backdrop and have not the first idea of anything they speak), talk to a cop/fed. Ask questions. Learn something before you write something so absurd that I can not suspend disbelief to get into what you are trying to sell me.
So, Clarke. Poor broken, bitter, crazy Clarke. First, she would not have passed the psych exam to be an FBI agent, much less a highly sought after one. Stop watching Criminal Minds, and thinking Penelope Garcia’s wacky clothing choices and demeanor are accepted in those hallowed halls. I’m supposed to buy a suicidal (ok, cry for help suicidal), cutting, alcoholic would be welcomed into the Bureau? Strike that, a newbie troubled agent would be afforded so much latitude? Please. Not likely. Just as it not likely that she is so talented and respected that she can get away with yelling at her boss in front of everyone without being formally reprimanded. Uh, no. Don’t get me wrong, she has a few shining moments, but they are vastly overshadowed by her whining, self-centered, obnoxious way. However, we are to believe she was just so valuable that Sam saved her countless times.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.
Sam, Sam, Sam . . . why? While I find him to be a father figure to Clarke, he’s more of an emotional crutch and enabler to Clarke. I loved Sam simply because you did see a protective side. However, I did find his enabling and often mealy-mouthed way of dealing with Clarke did her and him a disservice. He could care, but he didn’t have to keep buffering her falls and pushing her through organizations she shouldn’t have been able to walk on the premises of, much less within the buildings. I was not pleased with how the story ended with Sam’s character development. It was a bit too neat and pat to be satisfied with the ending; the lack of procedure there drove me insane.
Roger, was probably the only law enforcement officer that made sense. However, Clarke’s focus on Roger’s personal life was the downfall of him and anyone associated with him, in the eyes of Clarke. The petty and childish behavior she exhibited was enough for Roger to dismiss her with a poor evaluation and no reference to a new employer. However, he is not exactly patient, but understanding of the drive to capture her quarry.
We are to believe that Clarke’s poor behavior is the strong desire to capture Simon. Early on, I began rooting for Simon, the adult, much like I did while watching Law Abiding Citizen. That is how much I despised Clarke’s character. Labuskes does a good job of building the serial killer in his youth through flashbacks. I could believe Simon as a sadistic, intelligent and cunning predator. He was a well-crafted character. However, it felt a bit Criminal Minds when Hoetchener was being stalked and subsequently the team by Mr. Scratch. His torment of her felt cookie cutter and because I did not believe her to be this super sleuth, I couldn’t quite get the cat and mouse game he’s playing with her. However, if you pay attention during the book, you’ll get it fairly early on, as it is so telegraphed, there was no DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUNNNNNNN! moment for me. What was delivered for shock, I yawned and kept moving through the narrative.
Now the character who was the super heroine of this was Bess for me. She was the epitome of strength throughout the novel and I could believe her plight. She was in an abusive relationship that she took steps to extricate herself from. In attempting to escape one, she was captured by Simon. Rather than give up and think it’s her lot in life to just be abused and murdered at the hands of some man, she fights back. She finds the strength to lend strength to another captive. Between Bess and Clarke, I preferred Bess as the hero of this piece.
So unfortunately, I didn’t find that great piece of crime fiction that I’ve been craving and wanting to introduce BillMo to. I’m still on the hunt and am hoping for lightening in a bottle again. The Hugh Howey’s (Wool) or the Justin Cronin’s (The Passage) of this world surely has to have a crime fiction writer among them. Where are you????!!!!!!!
Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Bess & Sam.
Lady Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
Well. Well… that was… a whole lot of… nothing, really. With every It Ends With Her level novel, another chunk of my faith in the crime / thriller genre crumbles to dust. Where are the Thomas Harrises (The Silence of the Lambs) of the world? The Truman Capotes (In Cold Blood), Dashiell Hammetts (The Maltese Falcon), and Stieg Larssons (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)? (I mean, I know three of those four are dead, but… c’mon…)
Alright. Let’s get this over with.
Clarke’s a bitch, pure and simple. And not the sort of badass femme with a kick-ass-ask-questions-later sort of attitude who roars to the world, “I can do everything boys can do better… and bleeding!” No, she’s the sort of whiny, self-pitying, self-centered, co-dependent, ultra-needy bitch you want to slap in the face with a chair or grab by the shirt and shake until her teeth fall out or she goes limp. She’s recovering from a pretty horrible past, yes, and she went through a cutting phase, which I totally get. But she’s supposed to be a grown-up now, at least in her late thirties, I believe, and at this point, to be as successful as we’re supposed to believe she’s been in her career, she would have had to hike up her big girl skivvies enough to not be a complete and total asshole to the only people in the world who can bring themselves to point her down that path and continue to give a damn about her. And forgive me for my bluntness here, but I am fuuuuuucking siiiiick of female authors writing books with what are supposed to be strong female characters in traditionally male-dominated professions only to find that those “strong female characters” are all broken, shattered, emotional wrecks who can’t get over themselves and their own emotional melodrama to do anything properly. So… of course… a male character (or two) has to come in and smooth it all out and bring some sort of sense to the whole mess.
And let me just say this, as well: I absolutely positutely do not believe for one second that Clarke would have – that she could have – passed the psych eval for the FBI; if by some miracle she even managed to squeak through, I do not believe her shitty attitude or her constant mental and emotional meltdowns would have lent her the ability to become one of the FBI’s shining stars.
Which brings me to the overall subject matter. If you are thinking of writing a book and your primary character is going to be a member of, affiliated with, or have quite a lot of interaction with a member of a specialized group, such as the military or law enforcement, attorneys / judges, doctors, etc., please… please for the love of all that’s holy, I beg of you, if you do not personally know about the group or topic, please… please at least have a conversation with competent individuals who do possess intimate knowledge of that group or topic. Maybe I’m being unfair – maybe Labuskes did do her homework before she decided to pluck out this novel… but if she did, I couldn’t see any of her research here. It Ends With Her reminds me of the sort of police procedural drama that can’t even get a chance at the coveted evening slots on the network and instead comes on in the middle of the afternoon on weekdays, full of bad dialogue and even worse acting.
Clarke’s only friend in the world, Sam, is also allegedly with the FBI, but how he got where he is while simultaneously strapping her useless ass to his back and dragging her through the rank and file to stand front-and-center are beyond me. He’s just as co-dependent as she is – he does her no favors by propping her up rather than helping her learn to stand on her own, which leads me to feel suspicious of him; I know people like that, and their motivations typically stem from their own need to be needed rather than any desire to genuinely help someone else out of a hard spot or difficult situation. *****SPOILER ALERT***** >>> Also, if you’ve read it already, then you should remember quite well that after Clarke flounces off to find the baddy all by her onesie, Sam, who planned for that very eventuality (and who, it could be said, clearly used his beloved buddy in co-dependence as bait), goes running after her as backup. But then… his stupid ass… gets killed by… a throwing knife. Yes. An FBI agent investigating a serial killer – who is, incidentally, known for his skill with throwing knives – plans to ensure that said serial killer never sees a courtroom, so the aforementioned agent goes rushing off to bring some old school vigilante justice to his nemesis… wearing… no… bullet-proof vest. <<< *****END SPOILER*****
So, there’s the two main goodies done with. The villain is pretty dull, all things considered, especially given the fact that he’s spent decades playing this game but still doesn’t seem prepared for any of the simply idiotic coincidences that lead to his inevitable downfall. The only real characters worth a damn were Bess, who starts off pitiful but rapidly comes into her own, and Roger, who we’re supposed to believe is an A-1 jerkface but who, in my opinion, was the only person in Clarke’s life who seemed to actually, truly care about her and want her to succeed on her own – or be held accountable if she continued to act like a douchetard.
But it was short. Blessedly, thankfully short. So I’ll give it that. It wasn’t too terribly written, which salvaged it, and it went by very quickly, which was what really brought it up to two cups (“It was OK”) for me. I mean… if your protagonist is going to be unlikable, the central characters unrelatable, and your villain underwhelming, at least have some mercy and make your story short. 🙂
I’ll close by saying that this novel’s ending was fairly open, suggesting that it could be either a stand-alone or possibly the first installment in a series… and while it wasn’t true to its subject, I hope It Ends With Her was at least true to its title.
Elle’s Favorite Character(s): Roger & Bess. The latter began as a doormat but rapidly became the novel’s only real heroine, while Clark’s few interactions with the former led me to believe that, while he took his job very seriously, he mainly expected Clarke to learn to stand on her own two feet; when she acted like an idiot, he held her accountable for that, and when she threw herself one of her many pity parties, he refused to entertain her b.s.
Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
I didn’t hate this book, nor did I like it. It was a book that was just there, and I read it. I don’t want to read it again, and I don’t want to read any other books by this author unless she does something so great hat somebody I know and whose opinion I respect says, “Hey, read this, it’s great!” Otherwise, I’ll be perfectly fine not reading another book by her for the rest of my life.
It took a while for Adelaide to recognize why being smart would be a bad thing. But now she thought maybe she got it.
Wait! I did like one thing: it was short. Though it did feel like 350 pages rather than 287. I really found myself getting tired whenever I read it, because it just didn’t keep my attention.
I did not like Clarke. She was terrible and selfish. For example, she is described by her own creator as the kind of person who “… when she hurt, she wanted those around her to hurt.” Misery loves company, I guess… but just because you feel badly doesn’t mean you should want others around you to feel badly, too. I care about some of the people around me, and I don’t want them to hurt when I’m hurting… so I had a hard time liking her or even wanting to be stuck following her around. Even now, I can’t think of a single redeeming quality in that woman. She treated her only true friend, Sam, very badly, and basically took the position of, “Well, it doesn’t matter what I do or say, he’ll get over it and forgive me!” Well, yeah… and how does that work out for him? I won’t say here, but suffice it to say that he probably regrets the hell out of that now. And I vomit on them both.
She wished the past wasn’t set in stone – that it was malleable and that she could change it.
Simon made me nervous. He was supposed to, and the fact that the author did this successfully is one of the reasons I gave this book two cups (“OK”) rather than one (“Didn’t Like”). He was creepy and angry, and I could feel the waves of those big parts of his personality coming out of my Kindle.
Sam was nice, and I did like him. But I spent a lot of the time I was reading this wishing he’d just grow a pair, kick Clarke in the shin, and tell her to grow the hell up.
In the end, It Ends With Her was written like the standard crime books I’ve been introduced to. It reads like a standard crime book… just with a very self, self-centered heroine. If you like these things, selfish central characters and crime books, then this is the book for you. Otherwise… while it didn’t make me want to shove ice picks into my eyeballs, I just can’t recommend it.
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): Bess. I liked that she continued to fight and didn’t just give up. I respected her and could follow and understand her thought process. She was in a few bad situations, but she took control of them and bettered herself by doing so.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.