23 June 2011

Post 395: The Third Rail

The Third Rail by Michael Harvey. ISBN: 9780307473639.

I am sure this is an excellent example of a crime thriller, which is probably why I didn't much care for it. I know I've discussed before why I don't like mysteries and their relatives. The "hero" of the story is your fairly typical former cop turned detective with hot girlfriend and somehow manages to find the bad guy with the help of a plucky sidekick, some good/bad luck, and the fact that the bad guy is stalking him for reasons unknown until finally revealed; oh, what a twist. It's not badly written. I have no real problems with it other than the fact that I didn't much care for Michael Kelly, who seemed a bit too into himself and his job to the point where he put everyone around him at risk. This is interesting when it's Batman or Spiderman who have and openly display their fucked-up-ed-ness, but not so much when you have a character who believes his balls drag behind him on the asphalt... and that this is a good thing. I tend to roll my eyes at that kind of behavior, but some people like the overly macho thing in their literature.

Anyway, there was one poignant passage in this book that I think is worth mentioned and reflecting on. During a sniper shooting of people in several cars, Harvey describes what people have lost along with their lives (or due to their injuries). This includes the good and the bad. We see people who never find out they have a tumor, or their wife has been having an affair, or that they got into law school, or that they would have been a famous athlete. I liked this because it recognized not only the horror and destruction of the violence itself, but also the prolonged effects.

A violent act isn't only terrible for the violence or the lives lost, but for all of the potential lost. Even though the person who had a tumor at least didn't have to suffer through all of the pain that kind of diagnosis involves, he also didn't have the opportunity to say good bye to his loved ones, or to set up a scholarship fund, or amend his will to donate most of his resources to charity. But violence is especially horrible because it is ultimately something that could have been prevented. Violence may feel like a force of nature, but isn't the point of being human to disassociate ourselves from our instincts? To not react based on our emotions and baser desires? There are enough terrible things happening in the world that an act of violence is obscene because of its very unnecessariness. There is absolutely no reason to behave violently short of mental illness, and we ought to be doing everything we possibly can to treat even that.

It is so unfortunate that this is the only real moment of reflection we see from the narrator/author. It would have made an interesting counterbalance to an otherwise generic testosterone filled thriller.

I couldn't find a review that agreed with me on this one, and the only reason I really disliked it were for reasons I mentioned in the post. It just didn't seem necessary to write a review as well.
LibsNote: Copy provided for review by publicists.

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