Monday, October 7, 2013

The Steel Van Man by Jason P. Stadtlander

Review by Joan Goldsmith Gurfield

Jason Stadtlander’s The Steel Van Man is a fast-paced thriller in the gruesome, explicitly gory mode of works like Michael Connelly’s The Poet. Without revealing too much of the plot, this reviewer was immediately hooked on the premise and the memorable opening, which cites a Russian scientific study and moves quickly to its working out in the present day. The page-turning aspects of the plot (if one is willing to suspend disbelief for the large pile-up of coincidences) keep the interest level high.

The mind of a serial killer is made known to the reader, and we are torn between believing that person to be slightly sympathetic or believing him to be completely psychotic. This uneasy balance created by Stadtlander, and the fact that he constantly ups the ante for his characters throughout the book, make it an exciting read.

The book was not well-served, however, by the many proofreading errors and some imprecise and ungrammatical writing (i.e. “fair” for “fare,” “his professional FBI appearance emanating from him like a classic painting,” and a few dangling modifiers and problems with layout).

If the editors had paid as much attention to these details as they did to the lovely beginnings of each chapter, imprinted with the shadow of a tree, and the changes in point of view, highlighted with what looked like a knife dripping blood, the reading experience would have been smoother, and more likely even scarier.

Reviewer Joan Goldsmith Gurfield is Professor of English at East Los Angeles College

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