Thursday, December 16, 2010

Double Take

Double Take by Catherine Coulter

Are you ready to dive into the world of psychic mediums? We begin with Julia Ransom, widow of the renowned psychic medium August Ransom. For six months the San Francisco police tried to find enough evidence to arrest her, but failed. Then on a clear evening on Pier 39, a stranger knocks her unconscious and heaves her over the railing into the bay. If it weren’t for Special Agent Cheney Stone, Julia would have drowned. Cheney quickly realizes that the attempt on Julia’s life has to be connected with the murder of her husband, and reopens the investigation with the SFPD.

Meanwhile, In Maestro, Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble—last seen in Point Blank--learns about a woman named Charlotte Pallack who bears an extraordinary resemblance to his vanished wife, Christine, gone now for more than three years. Dix knows to his soul that Christie is long dead, but he has no choice—he flies out to San Francisco to see this woman.

Dix’s and Cheney’s paths cross, brought together by Savich and Sherlock. They all begin to unlock the mystery of Charlotte Pallack’s identity as well as the forces behind Julia Ransom’s attempted murder and the vicious murder of her husband. The most fascinating aspect of the case is the extraordinary cast of psychics they meet as they push deep into the intriguing, complex world of visions, mind benders, and communications with the dead.

--Double Take by Catherine Coulter, Copyright ©2007 by Catherine Coulter, published by Jove Books

My Review

Life isn’t easy for Julia Ransom.

First her husband, psychic medium August Ransom, is killed. The cops focused on her as the potential killer and never bothered to check any other possible leads. Finally, six months later, the police and the media have backed away, giving her some peace.

Then someone tries to kill her.

Fortunately, Special Agent Cheney Stone witnessed the attack and saved her life. He quickly intuits that the attack on her has something to do with the murder of her husband and gets himself involved in the investigation.

Across the country, in the small town of Maestro, Virginia, Sheriff Dixon Noble learns of a woman in San Francisco (not Julia) who bears an uncanny resemblance to his missing wife. Though afraid of what he might find, he has no choice but to go to San Francisco and see this woman. When he meets Charlotte Pallack, he’s taken aback at how much she looks like his Christie, but he also knows that she is not Christie. So why, when they meet the next day, is Charlotte wearing the bracelet he gave Christie for their anniversary?

Dix and Cheney are brought together by Special Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock as their seemingly separate cases in fact run together. Who killed August Ransom? Who’s trying to kill his widow, Julia Ransom? Who is Charlotte Pallack? Does she have a connection to Christie Noble? What role do August’s contemporaries, mediums Wallace Tammerlane, Blevin Wagner, Soldan Meissen and Katheryn Golden play in this increasingly tangled story? And can they figure it all out before the hired killer gets to Julia?

I’m hard pressed to put my finger on exactly what it was that kept bothering me while I read this book. I had a problem with some of the dialogue—in some areas, the dialogue was, well, it felt wrong. Some of her characters say things that I just can’t imagine people saying in real life. Here’s an example:

At the beginning of the story, Julia is at Pier 39 in San Francisco when the killer attacks. He hits her in the jaw but before he can do anything else, Cheney interrupts them, so the killer tosses her over the pier and takes off. Cheney jumps in and rescues her. His friend, Manny, comes out of the restaurant to look for him.

Another man’s voice came out of the darkness. “Hey, Cheney, can’t I leave you alone for a single minute? Where’s June? I thought she only came out for a cigarette. I thought you came out to fetch her. What’s going on here? Who is this?”

A minute later:

She heard a woman’s voice. “Cheney? Manny? What’s going on here? I finished my cigarette, but neither of you were at the table when I went back inside. Linda said Manny had come to look for you, Cheney. Come on back inside, they just brought our dinner. Hey, what’s this?”

If you were coming out of a restaurant to look for your friend and found them soaking wet, trying to help another person breathe, would you really say all that before saying “Hey, what’s going on here?” Sure, you might start saying all that, but you’d likely shut up the moment you realized something wasn’t right. Nope, these two had a whole paragraph of stuff to say before they clued the reader in to the fact that they could see something was going on.

This is only the first example of what I’d call meaningless dialog that I came across, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

The story involves several different story lines that slowly—very slowly—start to come together before the mad dash at the end. Each line was interesting, but I think there were just too many of them and they were too separate for too long. I was afraid of putting the book down for more than a day for fear I’d forget what was going on and lose track of the story. This, to me, does not make for good reading.

I give this story TWO STARS.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. I’m not saying I hated Double Take, I’m just saying I had a hard time reading this particular book.

When I start to read a series by an author, I usually like to start with the very first book in the series so I can get a handle on the main protagonists. That way, as I continue to read the series, I’ll know their histories and I’ll better understand some of the ensuing story’s nuances. I haven’t done that with the Savich and Sherlock series. Double Take is number 11 in the series, and the only other one I read is number 12, Tail Spin. So I’ll take the blame if there’s something I’m not “getting” by reading the series out of order.

Catherine Coulter has a huge following of loyal readers who love her Savich and Sherlock stories. Right now, I’m just not one of them. I have a few more of her books and I will read them so hopefully I’ll have better things to say about the next one.

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