The Sacrifice: 0

Mitchell Smith, Author
Mitchell Smith, Author Dutton Books $23.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-525-93978-8
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-57511-022-6
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-451-18475-7
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There's little to surprise veteran thriller readers in Smith's new crime novel (after Karma, 1994), and not much to please them either. The villain is a familiar sort--a serial killer--as are her pursuers, aging robber Tyler Pierce, who's an ex-con, and Naomi Cohen, an erstwhile prostitute with a heart of gold. Despite rich detailing, these two heroes in fact seem chipped from any number of Elmore Leonard novels, as does the Florida setting. The set-up is strong: after ripping off an armored van shipment, Pierce learns that his daughter has been slain in Florida by the maniac known as the Sweetwater killer. Heading south to find the murderer and extract revenge, he hires Naomi as his local guide and sorts out clues, running up against a bent cop, drug runners and other oddballs. There's no mystery, since readers are told the killer's identity early on, and there's scant suspense as Smith devotes too much space to interplay, sometimes cute, sometimes maudlin, between his leads. Fierce action too rarely punctuates the narrative. The most extended action sequence--of Pierce struggling naked through lethal swamps as a hurricane sweeps by--is powerful but seems arbitrarily inserted for effect. Even the killer's motivation--rage against abortions--appears more calculated than realistic, and leads to some intrusive pro-choice soapboxing. A pat ending laced with symbolism only confirms that Smith is straining here, etching a novel that, despite some crisp lines, winds up feeling as bogus as a three-dollar bill. (Jan.)
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