Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: Diagnosis: Murder - The Last Word by Lee Goldberg (Diagnosis: Murder #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Series characters are great as always
Cons: Plot is very slow in the first quarter
The Bottom Line:
Overcomes slow start
To make pages rush right by
Leaves fans satisfied

Fitting Finale for Diagnosis: Murder

The Last Word is the eighth and final book in the Diagnosis: Murder series of tie-in novels. The TV show aired during the late 90's and starred Dick van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a doctor with a gift for solving murders. Along with Drs. Jesse Travis and Amanda Bentley, he'd assist his son, police detective Steve, in solving murders.

Many of the murderers Dr. Mark Sloan has put away he has no desire to see again. Topping that list is Carter Sweeney, the man who terrorized Los Angeles with a series of bombings. Yet somehow Mark finds himself meeting with the criminal. Sweeney announces that he's up for an appeal, and he knows he'll get out this time. He's looking forward to meeting Mark for lunch as a free man. The idea repulses Mark, who decides to keep his prison meeting a secret.

Life is busy for Mark and his friends. An unfortunate accident leaves a woman the perfect candidate for organ transplants, and Jesse oversees the operations. Steve is busy at work with a gun smuggler that he's caught. And the mayor's race is heating up. So why is it Mark can't get his visit with Carter Sweeney out of his mind?

This series has been some of the best tie-ins you can read. Most of that comes from the writer. Lee Goldberg served as executive producer of the show for a number of years, so he knows these characters. And he's wonderful at creating engaging plots. Unfortunately, he's a TV writer first, and while his dialog is sharp, sometimes the exposition suffers. Still, it's a minor flaw in a wonderful series.

In writing this fitting finale for the series, Mr. Goldberg chose to bring back one of his favorite villains from the TV series. There's enough of a recap of the TV episodes that he appeared in, so if he doesn't sound familiar, don't fear. This book also discusses the endings of the previous books in the series, so if you are planning to read them, don't start here.

This book does start very slowly. About a quarter of the way into it, I was getting bored and wondering where it was going. Then things really took off and I was hooked for the rest of the book. And those events from the first quarter? Absolutely essential to what comes next.

As always, the series characters are captured perfectly. I never have any trouble picturing the actors from the TV show in the parts. Carter Sweeney makes an excellent villain again, and it was a wise decision to bring him back. The new characters introduced here are also interesting. Several are a bit on the flat side, but they serve their purpose well. And since they have limited page time, it really doesn't matter.

Not only does this book close out the book series, but it also serves as a finale for the TV show. Yet it leaves the door open for further adventures. Frankly, I'd love to know what happens to these old friends next. 

This is a book for the fans. Anyone looking for closure for these characters should read The Last Word. I'm definitely going to miss them. I just hope that something changes and we can get more adventure with these characters at some point in the future.

Of course, this book is best appreciated when you read all the Diagnosis: Murder Mysteries in order.

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