Audiobook Review: Mission Flats by William Landay

28 11 2012

Mission Flats by William Landay

Read by William Dufris

Books on Tape

Length: 13 Hrs 31 Min

Genre: Police Procedural/Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Mission Flats is a solid, but sometimes uneven mystery novel, with some interesting characters. Landay’s strength is in creating the character dynamics, and in walking us through the intricacies of both local police, and big city politics with a storyteller’s flair. Fans of police procedurals, with complex and conflicted characters, should enjoy this novel.

Grade: B

One of my favorite movies of all time is M. Knight Shyamalan’s Classic “I see dead people” movie, The Sixth Sense. There are many reasons I love this movie, including that it was shot in my neck of the woods, by local talent. Also, there was the ending. It was one of the few movies that, upon seeing the ending, made me want to go back and see it again. The Sixth Sense turned me into a fan of M. Knight Shyamalan overnight. His next movie, Unbreakable, also blew me away. Yeah, I know that some people hate that movie, but I loved it, and its brilliant ending. The problem with Unbreakable is it created a sense of expectance for the “big twist.” One of the reasons I loved The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable was I really wasn’t expecting the twist. In fact, I wasn’t even expecting A twist. Yet, after these movies, Shyamalan became the “surprise ending” guy. While I liked Signs and tolerated The Happening, expecting the twist totally ruined The Village for me. I began to expect the twist, and read too many reviews comparing it to The Twilight Zone, which is also known for its twisty endings. I went into The Village knowing there was a twist coming, and figuring it out pretty damn quickly. This problem also follows me into the book world. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, and so much of my enjoyment of these books depends on whether I read it fresh, or read it looking for the big surprise. One of my favorite books this year was William Landay’s Defending Jacob. It was a wonderfully complex legal thriller which has a wallop of a gut punch ending. Having enjoyed Defending Jacob, I was interested in his other book, Mission Flats and thought I would give it a go.

When town Police Chief finds the body of a prominent Boston prosecutor, he gets thrust into a dark world of inner city politics, drug culture and corruption. Feeling he needs to keep involved in this case, he travels to Boston with a retired cop to dig into areas he feels are being ignored by the Feds and Boston PD. His investigation digs into a sordid brutal past that some powerful people would like to stay buried. Mission Flats is a raw look into the dirty battlefields of inner city crime and law enforcement. Landay has created an interesting, yet totally unreliable protagonist in Chief Ben Turner. Turner has a feel of a good solid guy, out of his depths yet it’s hard to get a strong grasps on his motivations. He continually pushed at obscure aspects of the case with little explanation beyond his possible naiveté and pop culture understandings of criminal investigation. At times, it was quite hard to like Chief Turner, who seemed to often just be a distraction to the overall story, yet, you couldn’t help but be compelled by his thought process. Landay populates this tales with an interesting mix of secondary characters. You never really get a true handle on many of these characters, some  seem almost like bad caricatures, until they surprise you, and other are instantly fascinating, then sort of blend into the background. All in all, it makes for a bit of an uneven experience. Landay does a great job developing the relationships between characters, and building some interesting dynamics that keep you interested when the plot goes off on another tangent. One of my major problems with the novel was more my fault that the authors. I went into the novel looking for a twist. I approached it more as a mystery than a thriller and read like I was investigating it, instead of just letting the story flow. I was looking for clues, and pretty much found them, with the ending coming more as confirmation than surprise. Overall, Mission Flats is a solid, but sometimes uneven mystery novel, with some interesting characters. Landay’s strength is in creating the character dynamics, and in walking us through the intricacies of both local police, and big city politics with a storyteller’s flair. Fans of police procedurals, with complex and conflicted characters, should enjoy this novel.

William Dufris did a good job narrating this novel. I listen to a lot of novels that take place in New England, and often am dismayed that some narrators don’t even attempt some level of regional accent. I can understand why some narrators do this, they would rather give characters a neutral accent than the wrong accent. In Mission Flats, Dufris must balance variants of the New Englander patois, with characters from Boston to Maine. While I can’t say whether his accents where authentic, they do enough to give the story a New England feel. There were a few times where I found some words pronounced strangely, and was unsure whether they were regional pronunciations or just mispronunciations. Other than that, I though that Dufris brought the right amount of energy. The novel is full of colorful characters, and Dufris does a lot with them, making each one stand out on its own. It was a fun performance, with just enough flavor and energy to keep me happy and listening.

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One response

2 12 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I hate the ‘expecting the twist’ phenomenon. That’s how I started figuring the solutions to all of the Agatha Christie I was reading at this time last year (and why I can’t read her anymore for awhile).

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