Former Boston Assistant District Attorney Raffi Yessayan returns for his second novel in what appears to be a new crime series. 2 in the Hat follows his highly underwhelming debut novel, 8 in the Box.
Before I begin to sound overly critical, let me focus on what Yessayan does right. He clearly knows the law, the territory and subject matter he is writing about. He gives decent insights into the legal system and challenges the law enforcement community faces in the rough Boston area. That being said, he clearly lacks as a skilled writer and plotter and needs much fine-tuning before he will be ever mentioned in the same breath as other Boston area writers such as Dennis Lehane and Chuck Hogan.
2 in the Hat refers to bullets fired into the baseball cap/skull of one of the many murder victims in this tale. We are reintroduced to Boston P.D. Detectives Angel Alves and Wayne Mooney who, along with D.A. Connie Darget, are the principle law enforcement characters in Yessayan’s novels. In the prior novel, the Blood Bath killer was seemingly brought to justice in a story that started out with promise but devolved into highly unrealistic melodrama. 2 in the Hat focuses on another nickname killer - the “Prom Night Killer” - who murders young couples and poses them in their dresses and tuxedos in various locations, leaving fortune cookie quotes in the victim’s mouths.
Sounds simple enough, but 2 in the Hat again shows Yessayan trying to be too clever for his own good, and a decent plot spins wildly out of control only to end in an unbelievable climax. Rather than trying to model his writing style after a brilliant plotter like Lehane, he has chosen the James Patterson method of ridiculously short chapters (some as small as a single paragraph) meant to keep the pages turning so the reader doesn’t have time to notice the lack of character development and huge plot holes.
Characters are introduced and killed off at record pace in this one. To make matters worse, halfway through the book the idea is tossed out to Detective Alves that they got the wrong guy for the Blood Bath Killer and that he may be the same individual they are pursuing as the Prom Night Killer. If this is indeed the case (and I don’t want to give that away), it totally flies in the face of all the intricate detective work done in the first novel and reduces it a mere plot device used to save this novel.
I’m sure Yessayan will have regional success with 2 in the Hat, but if he ever wants true recognition and bestseller status, he will have to show us something completely different. I hope he has it in him.