Length: 286 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
An expert consultant for the FBI, Leopold Blake has seen more than his share of crimes and crime scenes. So when he’s called in to look at the supposed suicide of a Senator, he doesn’t take long to conclude that suicide was not the cause of death. Looking at the body of the third Senator to be murdered in three weeks, Blake knows that his weekend plans were not going to work out – not when there is a serial killer out there; and one who is good enough at making murders look like suicide to be a specialist. Then there’s the case of the high profile kidnapping that seems to be for reasons other than ransom… and the rising number of dead bodies.
Blake knows something is wrong, and he knows that it’s only going to get worse. The only thing he’s not sure of is what he’s getting himself into. Within hours, Blake is running from an unknown enemy, one who won’t stop until Blake is dead. Blake and his team made of a beautiful cop and a dedicated bodyguard need to get to the bottom of the chaos before their enemy wins – because his victory means complete mayhem… and certain death.
Panic comes with a tagline of sorts – A Leopold Blake Thriller. There is only one problem with that though; the book isn’t all that much of a thriller.
The good points of Panic include a more than decent story line, a good mix of characters, and some really detailed action sequences that leave you feeling like you’re watching a movie. Unfortunately, even the good points couldn’t really hold up the book or make it very thriller like.
While the story is not bad, it’s not exactly innovative or out of the blue either. It’s quite predictable and doesn’t have enough oomph to be called a thriller. A mystery, maybe, or even crime fiction. People are dying and we need to know why, but that’s not really enough to call it a thriller. The reason I’m harping on that particular point is because I picked up the book mainly because it was a crime thriller, which one of my favorite genres. And on that front, it was disappointing.
But, I got over it and decided to enjoy the book as a mystery, which worked to making it a better read. Overall, there’s nothing too wrong with the book. But there are some things that come out glaring at you, one of which was the lack of character depth. Somehow, you read the book and look at everything from the various characters’ perspectives, but don’t really associate with them. This problem existed mainly with Blake himself.
The good thing about Blake was that he wasn’t some sort of can-never-be-defeated protagonist. He has weaknesses, and that’s why he has a bodyguard. But what skills he may lack in self defense, he makes up in logic and observation – or at least, he’s supposed to. Blake is introduced in a Sherlock-esque manner, seeing that which the best law officials cannot. That is why he’s an expert consultant. But then, he goes and makes the stupidest mistakes and lapses in judgment that even a rookie detective on his first case wouldn’t. So while I have no problem with the fact that he needs his bodyguard for the action, has the best team that money can buy at his beck and call for all the techie stuff (instead of being a whiz kid at absolutely everything himself), and needs the assistance of a cop too, I simply cannot understand why he would mess up on the one front that’s working for him. That, in my mind, is weak character development. You can’t really take the one advantage your protagonist has and then conveniently forget all about it so that certain things can unfold, just to make the story move ahead. Stephenson could have found ten different ways to make the same thing happen without making it seem like his star’s one strength came and went as it pleased. Convenience and luck don’t really add much depth or interest to any story.
The remaining characters, while interesting, were not enough to keep you gripped at all times. Throw in some awkward moments of emotion that pop out randomly and without warning, and disappear just as quickly, and you have a pretty odd style of writing that doesn’t aid in making the book enjoyable. The only parts that seem to have been written with a lot of dedication and interest are the action sequences. At one point though, that just got strenuous to read, especially given the lack of depth in too many other places.
But even with all those problems, here’s the thing – the book, story, and writer have potential. And clearly, the book has been appreciated because Stephenson carried out the original plan of making Blake a recurring character. From what I’ve read, the characters get better as the stories progress. Panic ends with the hint (a really large one) of a sequel and a story that is connected. So, in spite of all that problems, I am going to read some of the other books in the series, because at the end of the day, it’s not so bad that you want to never look at it again.
All in all, Panic has some things going for it and many against. It is fast paced and does move along well, even if it doesn’t grip you from the get go and make you feel like you can’t get up without finishing it. If you want to read a crime thriller with lots of twists and turns, a book that you just can’t keep down, then this isn’t the book for you. But if you like mysteries in general and just want a relatively easy read that you can go through without thinking too much and at your own pace, Panic is an option you can consider.