This was SO close to a five star read for me. Just not *quite* there as it felt like a slightly underdeveloped arc somehow. But very, very good; an original story and interesting character/voice. Highly recommend this series.
The only negative for me, that I ended up docking a star for, is that it's not clear what (if anything) it's all building towards; i.e., why am I as a reader along for the ride? A story is generally propelled forward because something is evolving in terms of plot, or character, or relationship, and thus we're presented details that help clarify or bring to life that evolution. But here a lot of what we're reading doesn't pertain to growth or change in the character or his situation; we just seem to be following his day-to-day happenings, a meandering tale about a hit man and his hooker
. So I kept waiting for something to happen, or some purpose to be revealed; but that permanent state of anxiety of "ooh, something is going to click into place aaany second now..." only holds for so long. And when nothing does, it's like The Boy Who Cried Wolf: it made me stop paying attention and lose interest a little. Just a little, mind you, I still tore through the book in one day. Still, a shame for what could have easily been a 5 star for me based on writing style and originality of story and voice.
Overall I experienced this minor 'flaw' as multiple moments of "why are you telling me this?" There are moments of extreme detail once in a while that kind of threw me for a loop as the reader: why am I getting *this* detail in particular (over the multitude of other details you could have no doubt thrown my way); it must be pretty important if it's getting this much focus, right? But that just doesn't always seem to be the case here. E.g., a spoiler-free quote:
"I walked into Walgreens and picked up a pre-paid cell phone which I paid for in cash. I examined the packaging as I headed back outside. As soon as I stepped out of the revolving door, I had to jump back against the building to avoid some guy doing a duck-walk down the sidewalk. He had a cup of something in his hands, which were clasped behind his back. With every step he took, the liquid sloshed out of the cup and onto the cement. A nearly burnt-out cigarette stuck between his lips completed the scene. I shook my head and tried not to laugh as I dumped the phone’s packaging into the trash, activated it, and dialed a number from memory."
That's some extremely specific stuff. But in the middle of our story it honestly just comes across as rather unhinged. Granted, our main character is a little unhinged, so maybe that was the point? But it's distracting as a reader; with everything I'm presented I'll be trying to fit it into the "big picture" that I hope you're building for me as an author. And in this case, even in retrospect I have no idea how this paragraph-long description of a near-collision with a duck-walking individual has any bearing on anything at all.
Same issue on a slightly bigger scale: our main character spends a lot of time with a character we're introduced to, but we're constantly reminded that this is only a temporary relationship, so we're certainly not putting all our 'care' eggs in that basket. But then where should I put them instead? And if I'm not being presented with anything that I should logically care very much about, why am I reading this at all?
I suppose this is all just a very long 'heads-up' to hopefully set the next reader's expectations correctly before diving in. I was perhaps expecting a typical story arc of a big fight/reveal/mix-up/something somewhere in the middle, with plenty of time to tie it all up in the third and fourth acts. Had I gone into it expecting to read 97% at an extremely good but steady 'simmer' level instead, it might have been a 5-star read for me after all.
I will say the writing is excellent; it's a very well done male first-person point-of-view and voice, and a very interesting character. Our 'hero' is not honorable or even likeable, but he's somehow not *not* either of those things, either; we do root for him, and want badly for him to find happiness in life. That's quite an impressive balance for an author to put forth (and maintain!)
I highly recommend this book and this series. While this one does end with a considerable 'bang' and we're all dying to find out what happens next, I somehow didn't experience it as a cliffhanger. It definitely felt neat and tidy, this book's arc (whatever it really was) came to a close, and it ended in a logical place to sit tight for a bit as we wait for book 3. I know I'll be devouring it the minute it comes out.
P.S. - Can't resist pointing out the oooone small moment where I didn't buy into our main character's voice as a dude, and that was when he mentioned "the chick who wrote about the sparkly vampires." NO Marine without a steady girlfriend would know that, and certainly not have that as their first thought upon seeing a diamond... Just sayin' :-)