The Terrorist Next Door by Sheldon Siegel(1 out of 5)
I love Sheldon Siegel’s Mike Daley series. I was so excited to see he had a new book out, and it’s based in Chicago, where I reside. Well, then I read it. And my excitement gave way to being puzzled. What happened to the author I admired? It’s like a whole different man writing this book. That old adage “Don’t fix it when it isn’t broken”? would apply here. But first, a synopsis of the book.
We have bombs being set off all over Chicago, using untraceable cell phones. This won’t stop until the release of one Hassan Al-Shahid, a UIC student who had attempted to set off a bomb at the Art Institute, but had his plans foiled by David Gold, our homicide detective and hero of this new series. Gold pays with injuries that land him in the hospital, and his partner pays with his life. Gold is awarded a major award due to his heroic actions; a car bomb explodes across the street during the ceremony, and Gold gets a text saying it isn’t over. Gold gets a new partner, A.C.Battle, and it’s on them to locate the bombers and stop more bombs from being blown off in major areas throughout Chicago. The city basically grounds to a halt, in fear of the next explosion and loss of innocent lives. Will they find out who’s doing this? Is it a lone operative? Or a terror cell? What started this and what will it take to end it?
Given that I live in Chicago and know all the locations named where bombs are detonated, I should care more. It was hard to really care. David Gold is a normal, run-of-the-mill detective doing his best, but he just seems- stale. Grounded, almost to the point you think he may be..well, in the ground. Not much life emanating from him. A.C.Battle, the new partner, is pretty much the same. Just not much smoking hot action here in the way of characters, kids. Something’s just..missing. The Mike Daley novels, you cared about all of them, and you couldn’t wait to see what happened in the next book. The narration of the book seems simplistic and removed from the actual happenings in the book, whereas his other novels, that wasn’t the case. I had a pretty good idea in the first five chapters of what was happening, and unfortunately, I was right. That doesn’t help in my review. I have to still have something to hang onto. Even though I’ve read other books where I knew who did it early on, usually the characters and circumstances keep me interested to see how the writer unravels it. That is not the case here. I kept waiting for an LL Cool J guest cameo, to be honest. It felt like a re-tread of a CBS crime show, except not that good. A novel taking place with a probable terrorist, there should be more action, and moment-by-moment turning of the pages and quickening of the pulse as you’re reading it and getting pulled into the story. I just kept setting it down and coming back a hour later, thinking I would have newfound patience with it and get into it more. Not the case. I got into it less. And that’s something, given it’s a small novel. And his chapter’s are short, so it clips along pretty fast. Usually, when I give a rat’s ass, I am thrilled by that setup. Not this time.
Another thing, there is a lot of politicking in this book. Meaning that a lot of Obama this, Obama that. That’s fine, if it’s more of a Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva type story, but it really isn’t. I don’t quite get, nor really embrace, the level of it in the book. I was surprised also, given that the book takes place in Chicago, and that there is political talk being bandied about, that Rahm Emanuel doesn’t play more of a role here. Just sayin’.
I can’t highly recommend this book. I really feel, reading it, and having read his other books, that it’s a whole different level of writing. I almost felt at times like it wasn’t Sheldon writing it, but someone else. I get that he wants to start a new series and probably put Mike Daley to bed, but he doesn’t have to sacrifice characters to do so. These characters felt like generic lemonade, not Country Time. I hope he comes out swinging with his next book.