Friday, November 6, 2009

Dead Time - by Stephen White

This was not one of my favorite reads. I didn't hate the book and don't regret my time spent with it, but I was somewhat distracted by what I perceived as a jumble of many simultaneous tales.  In addition, it is told from the viewpoint of both  Colorado psychologist Alan Gregory and his ex-wife Meredith.  My first reaction to this was a little bit of annoyance of sitting through the same story twice from multiple viewpoints.  After finding out more about the author and the series, however, I softened significantly on these initial reactions.

The primary storyline ties the disappearance of a young woman, pregnant as a surrogate for Meredith and her fiance, to a yet unsolved series of events from a Grand Canyon camping trip, during a record-breaking heatwave, many years earlier.  Meredith asks for Alan's help with this while a lot of other things are going on in his life.  Prior to this, their friend Adrienne, has just died and Alan and his wife Lauren, were granted custody of her son.  As a background to the main plot, Alan has taken his stepson to New York, to re-unite with his mother's family and Lauren and their daughter have flown to Holland to reconnect with a daughter she gave up long ago.  With Alan's help, Meredith hires Sam Purdy, Alan's detective friend with his own troubled past.  Alan ends up in Los Angeles, to question his friend's daughter about the Grand Canyon camping trip.  In addition to unraveling the secrets from the past, he confronts potential cracks in his own relationships.

As I indicated at the beginning of this review I thought that the book was, in general, quite captivating, but, at times seemed somewhat unfocused.  I think part of my problem, however, was that I jumped, completely uninitiated, into the sixteenth novel of Stephen White's Dr. Alan Gregory series.  When I started this book, I was not even aware that it was part of a series, let alone such a well developed one.  The fifteen earlier series thrillers, ranging from Privileged Information (1991) to  Dry Ice (2007) probably provide a lot of history and background that would probably make many of the things that I found distracting much more meaningful.  I did find the characters in this book very complex and interesting.  For the most part, I like the author's writing style.  I will definitely try another book in this series.

As a final, somewhat trivial, note, I expected the title "Dead Time", in the traditional murder mystery mindset, to refer to some event of murder or death.  While that might be part of an intended "double meaning," I was kind of surprised at the numerous references throughout the book to "dead time" in a conversational sense.  There were also several references to cleavage (the other kind) and on Stephen White's web site, he indicates that Cleavage was a working title that didn't survive the publishing process.  Not sure why I find this kind of stuff so interesting -- I just do.

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