When critics write that a book reads like a TV show, they’re usually not saying anything at all-just falling back onto a safe and overused phrase, kind of like “tour de force,” to avoid making any kind of thoughtful judgment.
Television programming runs the gamut, from “Lost” to “Trading Spouses”, and readers are often left with no clue as to which end of the spectrum the critic is referring to.
Not so in the case of the pseudonymous D. H. Dublin’s (real name Jonathan McGoran) debut novel, “Body Trace.”
The mystery is billed as “a C.S.U. investigation,” but it might as well be titled “CSI: Philadelphia.” Dublin’s book gives us nothing new, incorporating theme after theme from popular TV police dramas, but Dublin’s intelligent prose and creative use of Philly geography give “Body Trace” enough kick to make it worthwhile weekend reading.
In a nutshell, “Body Trace” is the story of med school whiz-kid Madison Cross, a C.S.U. (Crime Scene Unit, what they call the CSI guys in Philly) debutante with a lot to prove-her uncle is the terse but tender
David Cross, head of the Philadelphia C.S.U.
When Madison’s rookie mistakes lead to a media frenzy surrounding a case some very important people want closed up fast, she’s quick to draw the ire of Tony Parker, the vulgar veteran whose bark is worse than his bite.
Taken under the wing of the nurturing but no-nonsense Melissa Rourke, Madison doggedly pursues the truth about her first case while simultaneously fighting off the demons of her past and the advances of cute lab technician Aidan Veste.
Throw in a dead heiress and a prostitution
ring reaching to Philadelphia’s highest circles, and Dublin’s “Body Trace” has all the makings of a very busy-but very entertaining-crime thriller.
Madison Cross seems to have a bright future ahead of her as a serialized detective. Though tenaciously pursuing the truth, she seems to spend a good deal of the novel “wondering if she would lose her nerve or if common sense would persuade her to turn around” – just the sort of humanizing faults that readers love to see in their favorite sleuths. And while Dublin is certainly no Raymond Chandler, his debut boasts a fast pace, crisp dialogue and a realistic feel.
A resident of Philadelphia and confidante
of a real CSU investigator, Dublin’s descriptions of both the city and the crime scene are vivid and alive, possessing the sort of energy that keeps mystery readers glued to the pages. In the end, “Body Trace” is what it is-a paperback crime thriller based on a hit television show, not “The Maltese Falcon” or “The Big Sleep”.
Literary it is not, but “Body Trace” is an exciting and entertaining read, with a rapidly moving plot and characters that are fun, if not deep – in other words, a viable alternative to reruns of “CSI”.
Peter Chomko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.