Being that I was reeled into this series due to the premise and the summary blurbs, I decided to give Mariah Stewart’s Dead series a second chance to appeal to me. The first book didn’t do well. Knowing what to expect, I adjusted my mindset a little bit and went into Dead Certain with other expectations (which, I admit, may not be very fair to Dead Wrong, but that’s how I roll).
I’m not certain that the read was a much better experience than I had had with the first book, but it was definitely a bit more tolerable. Knowing that this book is not anymore a romantic suspense than it is a crime thriller or murder mystery helps me tamp down my expectations. It’s more of a “The Day in the Life of a Non-Paid Hitman and a Glimpse of his Victims’ Lives” type of thing. When you know who the killer is, who his targets are, and why he’s killing in the first place, it really DOES take the excitement out of a crime thriller.
But I made my attempt not to pre-judge based on the impression I got from the first book.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t banish the fact that the writing does not flow well and the narrative and dialogue still feels unnatural. And there is still too much going on. The writing is still decent and could be solid -- some scenes and some of the monologues feel realistic enough... and has its own charm.
But there is still entirely too much information being offered in random scenes about the killer, the victims, even side characters, and none of it helps to strengthen the main story. A lot of scenes that seem to demand an emotional impact of some kind just feels awkwardly force; like we're trying to inject more side tangents to give our characters more depth. Instead, it all felt like filler material you’d expect to find when watching a television series and the producers couldn’t think of what to air for that night’s episode. Sometimes those side tangents are fun. But in this case, they were fairly boring; almost out of place. I admit, I felt the need to fast-forward a few times during the book (though I did not do so, for whatever reason I can’t understand).
The only thing still keeping me from dropping the series completely is due to the fact that the third book will tie into the conclusion of the series: the third prisoner keeping his end of the bargain to kill his hit list of people, as promised. A slight twist is thrown into the end of Dead Certain that makes you wonder how the rest of the story will play out.
Will Archer Lowell hold up his end of the game and kill for his fellow prison-mate? I’m going to admit, as reluctant as I am to open up that last book, I’m also kind of curious to see how things will end. I might be having one of those, “Why do I hate myself?” moments.
One thing I do appreciate is that the characters are a little better developed than the characters in Dead Wrong had been. Greer Kennedy, the big sister, was quite the character, even if she was just a supporting one.