Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Diagnosis: Murder - The Shooting Script by Lee Goldberg (Diagnosis: Murder #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Favorite characters in a well constructed plot.
Cons: The writing, but only rarely
The Bottom Line:
Murder down the beach
Mark feels compelled to break the
Perfect alibi

More Twists Than an Action Movie

Dr. Mark Sloan is more famous for his TV career then his novel career. See, the character started out on the TV show Diagnosis: Murder as played by the talented Dick van Dyke. Several years after the run of the show ended, the characters were given new life in a series of eight tie-in novels written by former producer for the show Lee Goldberg. Considering he produced my favorite years of the show, I was expected a lot out of these novels, and they didn't disappoint. The Shooting Script is a perfect case in point.

Mark Sloan is trying to relax at his beach house when he hears gun shots. Immediately responding to the scene, he finds two dead bodies, a man and a woman in bed together. Investigating further, he discovers that they've been dead longer then just the minute or two it took him to get down the beach. Only once his son, homicide inspector Steve, arrives does Mark find out who the victims are. The man is the producer husband of famous action star Lacey McClure. The woman is unknown, but she isn't Lacey.

Lacey is quick to point her finger at the mob, saying that her husband owed them big time. But Mark isn't convinced. He thinks that the killer is the person with the perfect alibi and sets out to break it.

Since this is a celebrity murder, the case has garnered national attention. Mark isn't used to working in the media spotlight, and even though is a police consultant, the attention is hampering his investigation.

Making things worse is the new administrator at Community General, the hospital where Mark and his doctor friends work. This administrator has set his mind to stopping Mark's murder investigations one way or the other and is targeting those friends who help him. Will everyone Mark cares about loose their jobs? Can Mark solve the murder without destroying all of their lives?

This was the third tie-in novel released, so by the time I got it, I had some expectations. And the book met all of them. For starters, there's the plot. While it is obvious who the killer is early on, the real mystery is can Mark prove it. And I was certainly hooked turning pages to find out. There were several twists I never saw coming. I was literally glued to the book for the last 50 pages.

Then there are the characters. Since Lee worked on the show for several years, he has the main characters down pat. I could hear the actors delivering these lines with no problem at all. They are true to form. And he continues to include Susan, a recurring character who was cut from the show after he left. Since I loved Susan, I am thrilled to see her in these books.

Just because the series characters are great doesn't mean the new characters are any less real. They are believable and well developed.

The writing is the only weakness. Don't get me wrong. The book is well written and a quick read. I flew through the book all too fast. Since Lee has written scripts for so long, he has a hard time writing emotional back story. When he tries to delve into the character's motivations, is often falls a little flat. This is something that improves greatly over the course of the series, and that is beginning to show here. And it's such a small part of the book that it is a minor problem. The writing in the dialog and action scenes is crisp and to the point.

And let's face it. This book was never supposed to be great literature. It is supposed to be a new story with well loved characters. And as such, it succeeds in spades. But if you don't know the characters, don't worry. While there are references to past cases, you can jump in here and not feel like you've missed a thing.

If you love mysteries, you owe it to yourself to read The Shooting Script. This is a fast, satisfying read that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

And if you were a fan, be sure to read all of the Diagnosis: Murder novels in order.

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