Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Diagnosis: Murder - The Waking Nightmare by Lee Goldberg (Diagnosis: Murder #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing plot, great main characters
Cons: One twist too many at the end
The Bottom Line:
Weakest of first four
But still lots of great moments
That fans will just love

Nightmare?  Hardly.

As a fan of the TV series, Diagnosis: Murder, I was interested in this series of tie-in novels. Yet I almost didn't read them. That would have been a mistake.

Just like the TV series, the books focus on the exploits of Dr. Mark Sloan, a doctor at Community General Hospital in Los Angeles. He may be trained for medicine, but he has a gift for solving murders. And he enjoys it. This doesn't always sit well with his son, Steve, who is a homicide detective and doesn't like being outshone by his father. Mark is assisted by his friends Amanda and Jesse who are also doctors at Community General.

Mark looks out the window of the hospital to see a woman jump out of the window across the street. Fortunately, she hit a tree branch on the way down and is still alive, albeit in a coma. Unfortunately, this event is haunting Mark. Every time he tries to sleep, he sees the same events playing out again and again. He must figure out why she jumped so that he can keep her from doing it again when she wakes up.

Meanwhile, Steve has a baffling case of his own and actually calls on his dad for help. Winston Brant, the publisher behind "Thrill Seeker" magazine has just been murdered - by a knife in the chest while parachuting. Obviously, this is a case that will take Mark's incredible powers of deduction. Will he be able to help Steve with this case with the suicide haunting his thoughts?

As far as we are concerned, these two cases flow well together in the book. Both were intriguing, and I found myself constantly trying to read "just a little bit more." The action and clues come quickly, and the writing style has smoothed out enough to make this a fast read.

As with the others in the series, the characters are spot on. Some of the interactions of the four leads in the first part were laugh out loud funny, especially for fans of the series. This makes it feel just like an episode of the show, which is a great thing. There are a few character arcs taking place in these books, and they make the characters come more to life then they did on the TV show. The new characters get time to develop, too. They may not have the charm of the regulars, but they have enough flesh to be interesting while we are reading this book.

My problem came in the last quarter and involved the plot. It really felt dragged out, like there was one plot twist too many. Maybe that’s because I was constantly one twist ahead of Mark and waiting for him to catch up. Either way, while the ending was satisfying, it was the weakest of the series to date.

Ultimately, this was a fun, fast read. If you're a mystery lover, you'll enjoy The Waking Nightmare. If you're a Diagnosis: Murder fan, you'll love it.

Looking for more great reads?  Check out all of the Diagnosis: Murder novels in order.

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