The basics: When a local high school is the scene of a mass murder, Rachel Knight is called in to aid the investigation, as is the procedure for high profile cases. It turns out to be a shrewd move in this case, as the two shooters managed to escape with their identities still unknown.
My thoughts: When I first heard The Competition would focus on a school shooting, I was confused. "Where's the mystery in that?" I wondered. Marcia Clark takes an all-too-familiar storyline and makes it into a mystery. The Competition asks harrowing questions: what if the school shooting is the beginning rather than the end? How do we keep the public safe and keep them from panicking? This novel is a journey into the cliches and nuances of mass murderers and high school life.
While this case is all-consuming for Rachel and her best friend/detective Bailey Keller, there are frequent mentions to events from the first three books, including the lingering storylines. Unfortunately, there's little to no movement in these storylines, and I found their inclusion to distract the narrative of The Competition. The details of these past cases are admittedly hazy, but their inclusion served to only remind me of all I didn't remember rather than to add more intrigue.
As strong as the premise for this novel is, the mystery's conclusion was telegraphed too early for my taste. As a reader, I don't like to feel smarter than the detectives solving the case, and by the end of The Competition, I did. Stripped of the jaw-dropping resolution I expected from the novel's many unexpected turns early on, I did still enjoy the conclusion, even if it more resembled a legal thriller than a whodunit by the book's end.
The verdict: The strong premise and intriguing set-up is enough to compensate for the telegraphed resolution. The mystery is the emphasis here, and there's little to no progress for the lingering plot lines in Rachel's life. I hope the next novel addresses those, or at least stops mentioning them without moving them forward.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 416 pages
Publication date: July 8, 2014
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Competition from an independent bookstore or the Book Depository. It's currently unavailable on Amazon due to their ongoing dispute with Hachette, the publisher.
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