No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose
In taking a workmanlike approach to her 13th thriller, No One Left to Tell, Karen Rose opts for the tried-and-true wrongful imprisonment theme and produces something akin to a Mills & Boon / James Patterson mash-up. The best and most plausible element of the book, which clocks in at an unwarranted 530 pages, is the spine of the storyline, the reasons for the conviction and imprisonment of one Ramon Munoz for a murder in a bar more than five years earlier.
In the opening pages Ramon’s wife Elena, determined to clear his name, hands exculpatory evidence to private investigator Paige Holden. Moments later, Elena is shot dead, and Paige, now joined by assistant state’s attorney Grayson Smith, who led the Munoz prosecution, recognizes a conspiracy to which all supporting parties are vulnerable to summary execution.
Wisely, Rose eschews red herrings when it comes to the hook of her plot – the guilt or innocence of Ramon Munoz – and makes clear to investigator and reader alike that the man was framed. The central perplexity, then, is the identity of the faceless puppet-master. Who set up Munoz, and who is now offing, with clinical ease, all who knew the truth? And, as Paige might think to herself in one of the reflective inner musings of which Rose is tediously fond, ‘For the love of God, why?’
When it emerges that the murdered woman was acquainted with the grandson of a retired United States senator, Paige and Smith begin to suspect that the scheme goes, as they say, all the way to the top. However, the pair’s progress isn’t made with quite the speed that either we or Munoz might hope for, owing to interminable episodes of flirtation and ascetic mutual self-denial on the part of the investigators.
Though both exposition and prose are plodding, the breathless tone and pacing owes a debt to Dan Brown’s kinetic style. Perhaps it’s coincidental, but I’d like to think that the name of No One Left to Tell’s obedient hitman, Silas, is a nod to the self-flagellating antagonist of The Da Vinci Code.
Rose maintains the tension at simmering point through the periodic staging of violent events, each of which prompts seemingly endless pages of debate among the investigators. At first stirring, this technique becomes tiresome and distracting – particularly when Rose wastes dramatic gunpowder on, for instance, the attempted murder of Paige early in the novel.
I thought I had the whodunit solved halfway through, but missed the mark completely. With primary plot being Rose’s strong suit, No One Left to Tell should be a firecracker – but the heavy-handed writing makes for a damp squib. Readers seeking masterful suspense or true, stomach-churning thriller noir would be better off turning to Ian Rankin or Mo Hayder. Those content with consistent daffiness punctuated by sporadic madcap foolishness will be satisfied by this endeavour.
1/5 stars: Turgid and overlong.
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