Title: Full Release
Author: Marshall Thornton
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary mystery
Length: Novel (268 pgs; 79000 words)
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
In a nutshell: A murder mystery that didn’t know if it was funny or suspenseful, plus an incredibly annoying main character, ultimately ruined this book for me. Nice cover, though.
Studio accountant, Matt Latowski orders an erotic massage on the one-year anniversary of a bad break-up, but is surprised when the masseur calls him a couple weeks later to ask him out on a date. Unable to say no to a freebie, Matt begins a journey that eventually leads to his becoming a murder suspect.
As the police close in on him, Matt is left with no choice but to turn the tables and become an erotic masseur himself in order to find the murderer. Along the way he meets Detective Aaron Tripp. Sparks fly as Matt wonders whether the detective might be the murderer, or worse, the murderer’s next victim?
This is the sort of book that drives me wicked up the wall. The writing is decent and in that respect, the story pulled me in and kept me reading. But when it was over I realized that all of the characters were so incredibly ridiculous—with the exception of Eddie but then, he was dead—that I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room. How do I rate something like this? I could give it 3 stars and set it loose on the vast sea of mediocrity. Or I could give it 1 star, but that gives a bad book a certain cachet and infamy—and on reflection, it really wasn’t that bad. So I settled for 2 but really, in this case, the whole rating thing is sort of pointless. It’s easier to just say: this is not a book I’d recommend but fans of the author might enjoy it.
Anyway, to the review. A fundamental question I found myself asking when I finished this was, can murder ever be funny? Is it possible to write a funny murder story?
I thought about that for a long time. I finally remembered two books by James Lear that were humorous murder mysteries: The Back Passage and The Secret Tunnel. So that answered my second question. But what about the first? What did Lear do to make murder funny?
One, he made it clear from the start that the stories were over-the-top send ups of traditional British mysteries. Second—and this turned out to be a very important point—the victim was not an important character. A body conveniently turned up in the coat closet (or bathroom) and existed only to have all the rest of the characters run around to figure out “whodunit.”
I bring this up because I struggled for days after finishing this book to figure out if the author intended this to be a madcap lighthearted murder romp or a truly suspenseful police procedural. I finally decided it was the latter and on that basis, it was an epic fail.
The key point for me was that the victim—a young man named Eddie (whose real name turned out to be Javier)—was a character that I, as a reader, had come to know and like. He was the masseur that Matt hired to celebrate the anniversary of his break-up (see the blurb). Eddie calls Matt a few weeks later and invites himself over for dinner and a date. Matt and Eddie talk. They eat. They have sex (twice). They sleep together. Eddie seems like a nice guy. When Eddie ends up dead—his death first classified as suicide, then later changed to murder—I felt bad for him. I wanted justice to be served. And unfortunately, every single character in the story fails him: the police, Matt, his friends, and his family. It really was a shame.
The story is written from Matt’s first person POV and frankly, by the end of the book, I really hated this guy. Inconsistent and stupid, he was supposedly a murder suspect but that didn’t seem to rattle him too much. Instead, he’d do things like go for a job interview, have sex with his ex and a neighbor (the same neighbor that a few paragraphs before he said he loathed), set himself up in the erotic massage business using the victim’s massage table (ick!), get himself drunk to give himself an alibi, and, most ridiculous of all, not attend to the important detail of hiring a lawyer because he was broke. He seemed to think he could get himself out of the mess he was in without any legal assistance.
Fortunately, because the detectives assigned to his case also had IQs in the double-digits, the latter turned out to be true. I mean, aren’t the police supposed to do things like arrest suspects? Bring them to the station for questioning? Search the house for evidence? Or I am being too picky, expecting a murder mystery to really focus on solving the murder?
Eventually, everything did get sorted out, but with an unnecessarily violent interlude near the end that I did not appreciate. The post-coital conversation that ended the book was truly inane, IMHO. I suppose there is someone out there who might think it’s romantic but that person is not me.
As I said, fans of the author might enjoy this but I can’t recommend it. I’m just one reviewer, however, and others might feel differently. Comments, as always, are welcome.