The first three quarters of Hacksaw read much like much like a reincarnation of the Plum books by Janet Evanovich or the Sue Grafton “ABC” series. Written by Charlotte and Mark Phillips, although it doesn’t read and new or unique, it is a comfortable next step for fans that enjoy this sort of book. Hacksaw’s private investigator Eva Baum fits right in - or so it seems.
It is easy to expect Ranger to walk in on a bumbled line of investigating and calmly say, “Babe…” But, then again, our new P.I. has a liking for McDonald’s as in the Grafton books, so watch out for your diets and carb-counting with her constant trips for fries and Egg McMuffins. Similar (dumb?) luck seems to be the general theme, as opposed to genuinely good investigating work. It makes her more human, though, and easy to empathize with. General sarcasm is her earmark trait, which never hurts a bad case a bit.
A friend of a cop buddy is assaulted in an alley, allegedly to dig up information on the victim’s ex-wife. After being hired to warn the ex-wife of possible danger, Eva finds herself embroiled in a mess of serial-killer proportions. A string of unsolved murders from years before puts Eva in a precarious situation now, as she unwittingly digs for information and tips off bad guys all over the country.
It goes from a fairly typical P.I. story to a bloody, gory, B-movie slasher-type drama. Over-the-top horrendous deaths and spurting blood will be what is remembered of this book, not the clever story or even necessarily the motives of the Hacksaw Murderer. The gaping, grisly messes - “popping” eyeballs, brutally depicted rape, several slashed arteries splashing blood about and disembowelment - are among the highlights. The shock factor is irritating and unnecessary, rather than being good mystery writing.
Beyond that, the novel reads disjointedly. It flows along nicely for a while, then takes on another narration voice, and then moves back into the previous voice. All that back-and-forth stuff seems to accomplish is an overall sensation of muddy waters.
Eva is a great investigator, with seemingly no real instincts, though. The clues are all there, and she sees nothing. While she’s got grit, dumb luck and sarcasm on her side, she ain’t got much more than that.
The real joy in this whodunit is the fact that the characters are truly vital. They are very diverse and easily believable. Beautifully flawed, passionate, rushing stupidly headlong into situations that they shouldn’t. They just are none too bright.
Hacksaw is the sort of novel that has immense potential and a captivating plotline but ultimately suffers from poor execution. It could have been distinctive, which is maybe what the gush-fest was about, but it missed the mark entirely or just splattered it in passing, perhaps. It is a first attempt by the Phillips couple, so maybe their Eva Baum series will improve over time.