Sole Survivor by Matthew Scrivens
Title: Sole Survivor
Author: Matthew Scrivens
Publisher: JMS Books, March 2012
Blurb: Two men want Adam Huntington. One wants to love him, the other wants to kill him. Five years ago, Adam survived an attack by one of California’s most horrific serial killers. The experience scarred him, both inside and out. So to create a new life — one without the world-known moniker, Adam, the Sole Survivor — he moves to New York City, where he can be just another face in the crowd. NYPD Detective Jake O’Malley takes the motto of “Serve and Protect” very seriously in all things, especially in matters of the heart. He’s had enough of cheating lovers and believes in monogamy, respect, and romance. His first date with Adam is a disaster. But when their paths cross ten months later, he asks for a second chance. Despite his large and physically imposing frame, Jake hopes Adam will come to trust and eventually love him. Todd Eldin sees his muscled body as a finely honed tool, perfect for seducing and killing. When the police begin searching for the killer in a series of sexually sadistic murders, Todd successfully operates below the radar, until he spins a web to catch a more prominent prey — Adam, the one that got away. Has Adam finally outrun his luck? Can anyone survive the horrors of being caged, beaten and tortured for a second time? Or will Adam be able to use what he learned in California to save himself and his lover? Who will survive this deadliest of love triangles?
Review: This book had a hell of a plot. It wasn’t something I recall seeing before, the one that got away being targeted by another serial as a way to elevate that killer’s twisted sense of importance. For a serial killer story, that’s saying something. I was excited to read this one, happier still that it fit my criteria for a review for this site, and I liked the cover, which wasn’t the bodice ripper type I’ve come to know and loathe.
Unfortunately, the cover was the only thing un-bodice-ripper about it. The characters were all so supremely endowed they should have been scientific subjects for the next penile enlargement ad. Every one of them were beautiful beyond imagining, and despite the lack of the word ‘swoon’ anywhere in the text, it happened about every other page.
Jake’s habit of calling Adam beautiful grated by page 56. Adam, who had undoubtedly been through a horrific trauma, latched onto Jake way too fast to be believable. He trusted far too willingly, despite Jake being someone his best friend Mark had introduced him to. His first encounter with Jake, a disastrous date where Jake had pried far too harshly into Adam’s past, didn’t lend to Adam being so open with such a man when they got reacquainted. In fact, Adam wonders if he’s in love after the second date, which happened ten full months after the first date, so for all intents and purposes, it was another first date. I didn’t think men fell in love like that. I could be wrong, but the emotions detailed for each character weren’t supported by the events and dialogue that built up to that point.
There were details of the police procedure that weren’t consistent, such as saying a set of fingerprints came from the perp’s right hand, and two pages later saying they were unidentified as to which hand they belonged to. One of the CSI techs said, “…possible cause of death by manual strangulation. Probably within the last eight to twelve hours, based on body temp and stuff.” (Emphasis mine.) When have geeky sciency tech type people ever been so blasé about time of death or about the methods they use to determine it? It was just one more way the writing jarred me from the story.
Overall, the prose was inconsistent. There were whole pages that were just fine, followed by another set of whole pages that had me gritting my teeth. Passive voice was rampant throughout the entire thing. Everyone ‘began to do’ instead of just ‘doing’, or ‘felt like something’ instead of just having it ‘be’. Example: ‘The room felt like the temperature rose,’ as opposed to, ‘The temperature of the room rose,’ or ‘The room was hot.’ (Those aren’t direct quotes.) ‘Started to do,’ ‘began,’ ‘was doing’ instead of ‘did’… I’m normally not such a nitpicker about this stuff, but the passive voice of this book annoyed significantly because there was so much of it. Some descriptions were inventive and others were eyerollingly annoying. During one of the sex scenes, when I ran across ‘turgid member’ I literally laughed out loud at the absurdity and barely checked myself before throwing my Kindle across the room.
For a book that had sooo much potential, and was honestly plotted really well, I was disappointed the prose didn’t hold up to what could have been an excellent, gripping, tension filled thriller. In fact, even despite the stilted language, the plot elements and particularly the climax were enough to save this book from being a total loss. This one’s a D List.