Review: The 8th Circle (A Danny Ryan Thriller) by Sarah Cain

8th-Circle_r1_c1Review: The 8th Circle (A Danny Ryan Thriller) by Sarah Cain
Source: ARC courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 12th, 2016 by Crooked Lane Books
Verdict: Okay
Book Description:

A year ago, Danny Ryan lost his wife and son in a car accident. He’s still reeling from the tragedy when Michael Cohen, his friend and fellow journalist, drives into the pond in front of his house with a bullet through his gut.

With Michael’s death ruled a murder, Danny must work to get his name crossed off the list of suspects, and that means digging into Michael’s last article, an expose of the twisted side of Philadelphia politics and nightlife. But powerful people are ready to kill to protect what Michael was about to uncover, and if Danny’s not careful, he’ll be next.

If you like the darker, murkier and twisted side of thrillers, The 8th Circle certainly delivers on that front. Sarah Cain’s debut mystery novel is a strange and disturbing read; one, unfortunately, that gets weighted down by its own increasingly convoluted turns and reveals.

Featuring a recently widowed and grieving father as our protagonist, The 8th Circle combines a number of elements: journalism, serial murder, political debauchery, torture, and police investigations. In this rather large brew of features, we have some quite fascinating back stories regarding Danny, his relationship with his wife, his love for his young son, his journalism, and relationship with his family and in-laws. Now, my main issue with this novel is that the author tried to take on so much and broil so much together to make a twisted political thrilled- but not all of it followed through well or clearly. And in a story as labyrinthine as this one seemed to be, everything needs to be crisp and clear. Perhaps in trying to shock or terrify the reader, more murder and grotesqueness was added as the novel went on- but this did little at all to uncover or edify the big reveals. At the end, readers are given insight into Micheal’s death as well as into the deaths of Danny’s wife and child, but it feels strangely peripheral considering the maze of other story elements.

Overall, The 8th Circle promised an exciting ride- and did deliver on multiple accounts- but never quite came together, in my opinion. It is one of those novels where I see a lot of promise in the offering: good elements that just got lost in a overly elaborate and heavy story. Cain definitely has an edge in her writing and is not afraid to push or shock. But I think a cleaner story, with simpler tangents and fewer (but more well-developed) characters might have been better. I might be interested in reading more of Danny Ryan’s adventures- to see where the author takes his story- though I hope that the plot and focus is much sharper and tighter for the second round.

I received a copy of The 8th Circle courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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