Derek Flint, 41, is hardworking, with a passion for his job and exacting standards, which he imposes on his apprentice. It stands him in good stead with his home security business. But at home it is his domineering and manipulative mother who rules the roost until he can escape to the sanctuary of his room and his computer. His screens are the doorway to spending time with his friends, the families who have invested in his security hardware. Even if they don’t know he is watching them, Derek feels justified in taking exceptional care of his clients – and is just a little less lonely.
But Derek has turned his successful company into a monster, and one that DC Beth Mayes suspects is involved in a series of increasingly violent crimes as they all occur in homes and businesses using his services. All she needs to do is get over the threshold of that strange house where Derek lives.
Stalker should be an interesting story. While the theme of those we trust for our security being the ones we should look out for isn't exactly new, a series of violent but seemingly unrelated crimes rather than ones that are obviously linked, all in homes and businesses protected by the same security company, is a reasonable plot.
Unfortunately, the set-up is extremely long-winded. There are several chapters of stagnant text, where the only thing colouring the landscape is a handful of indiscreet clues that make the ending all too obvious. Although it is important to show the main characters in their normal setting, and it helps to provide the opportunity to build a rapport with victims (it is difficult to care about a victim we know nothing about), the writing style and content is padding not substance. Following this, the ease with which the detectives connect seemingly distinct crimes is utterly unconvincing.
Derek is a hackneyed and boring character; the middle-aged never-dated-a woman bachelor, still living at home with a mother who is as bitter as underripe lemons because her husband did a bunk. Julie and Russ, the first victims, are flat, and their behaviour is unconvincing. The other characters are underwhelming.
Although there is plenty of ‘tech-talk’, which puts the reader firmly in the present, there is no sense of place. This could be set in Anywhereville, and even the milieus are predictable. I have no idea where it is supposed to be set. With a little imagination, the backdrop could have been lively and vibrant, even if it was a fictional town. Sadly, the only thing that came through on description was the author’s opinion.
The dialogue is pedestrian, repetitive and too real-life, and the introspection is shallow, although there is a reasonable balance between dialogue, thought and action. The swathes of padding made this a slow, and in places, an inconsistently paced book, and I found myself skimming substantial portions just to get to the end and prove my theory was right.
Stalker is a missed opportunity and would have benefited from significantly deeper character development, far less padding and tighter dialogue. It was an easy, fast read, but by no means a page-turner.