I so wish that I could say I loved this book. If the middle was as enticing as the beginning and the end, then maybe that would be the case. When we open up the book we’re in Tommy Campbell’s POV as he wakes up to The Sculptor making him into his Bacchus. I was a little thrown off at first with the line, “O Son of Jupiter,” though. I was expecting this to have some sort of science fiction twist for a second–which turned me off–but then it was clear this was not quite the merging of genres I’d thought with the end of the second chapter. Ah, thriller du jour. Again, if only the rest of the book lived up to this first scene.
If you read my previous post about Dobyns’ The Church of Dead Girls, you know I like to win. I want to solve the murderer before the narrator(s); I want to beat them inside their own stories. So, obviously what I’m not a fan of is everything being handed to me on a silver platter. In one chapter Sam and Cathy will have concluded, “Yes, the Michelangelo Killer used Carrara…” and then in the following chapter the killer would say, “Yes, I used Carrara…” (or rather, HE used Carrara, because the book was in third person, but hopefully you get my point.) I didn’t even get to try and figure anything out myself because practically everything Sam and Cathy guessed turned out to be correct. It’s like they couldn’t fail. Just because Cathy’s an expert on Michelangelo does not mean she’s an expert on psychopaths, but apparently she’s missing her calling.
Then there was the romance arc between Cathy and Sam. Now, I love romance arcs. I rarely pick up a book without the promise of a romance arc. All the novel ideas I have include a romance arc. But, The Sculptor was a little too exaggerated with the “insta-love” trope for me. I mean, all Sam and Cathy have to go on is that they find one another attractive. Then all of a sudden they’re together and throwing around “I-love-you”, grant it, mostly in their respective minds, but they go at it nonetheless.
Then there’s The Sculptor himself. A victim of child abuse, molestation, and rape–by his own mother–The Sculptor (AKA Christian, AKA the Michelangelo Killer) had a lot of things working against his sanity. Yet, it felt like a poor imitation of the Norman Bates complex. I did appreciate how everything was tied to the Rome Pietá by the end, thank goodness, if there was one other saving grace of the novel it was this; but I felt like the only suspenseful moment happened at the end. I’ll admit, I was worried The Sculptor killed Sam–and if he did I was about to be all kinds of angry–and I got that thrill when Burrell found the new “statue” at the end of the novel. I actually slapped my hand to my forehead, thinking, “I knew their happily ever after was too good to be true!”
Yes, the ending brought forth a bit of redemption for The Sculptor, but I just can’t get the tone of a cheesy Lifetime movie out of my head. Oh, so The Sculptor just happened to sneak into funeral parlors and acquire formaldehyde; of course the FBI would immediately figure out he was using the process of plastination; and why wouldn’t Cathy be able to take over The Sculptor’s mother’s persona based on guesswork and trick him into freeing her? (I mean, that’s what I’d do.) Seriously, though, that scene was way too far-fetched. I mean, sure, chalk it up to divine intervention, but really? It was a little, I don’t know, convenient.
For me, not even the psycho aspect of the novel interested me. As I said, I read it as another slight take on the Norman Bates complex, but watered way down. I think there’s a way to “pull off the impossible” in novels, meaning: I understand this is completely unrealistic, but I’ll still defend it to the grave. With The Sculptor I found myself thinking: I know this is completely unrealistic, and I’ll call it out until the grave.