The Halo Effect, MJ Rose
I purchased MJ Rose’s, The Halo Effect over three months ago, and I’ve been trying to read it ever since.
Here’s one of my more serious blurbs: (Yes I can do them)
Dr Morgan Snow works as sex therapist at the Butterfield Institute, where they specialise in helping people with various sexual problems. One of Morgan’s clients, is a high-classed call-girl called Cleo, whom she has gotten quite close to during their sessions.
Although Cleo is good at being whatever her clients want her to be, she is having problems when it comes to making love to her actual boyfriend, thus the bi-weekly sojourn to the Butterfield Institute.
Cleo has also written a kiss-and-and-tell account of her life as a prostitute. Many of her clients are high-powered executives, who have much to lose, if their identities, along with their sexual proclivities are revealed to the world.
Cleo gives this book to Morgan to read, in order to get her opinion on whether or not she thinks it’s a good idea.
Meanwhile, there is a serial killer who is slaying prostitutes and leaving them dressed in nuns habits, with their pubic hair shaved into the shape of a cross.
The police are baffled, as to who the perpetrator could be, and as to what his motive is. The murderer leaves no clues in his wake.
Enter Noah Jordain, the detective charged with trying to solve these murders. He shows up at the Butterfield Institute, to ask Morgan about one of the victims who had been a client of hers.
When Cleo fails to show up for her appointment twice in a row, Morgan becomes worried about her, because this is out of character, and soon she begins to suspect that the murders and the disappearance of her client may
be connected, although she tries to dismiss this train of thought.
Morgan eventually takes matters into her own hands, and delves into the world of high-classed hookerdom in an effort to find out what has happened to her client.
What can I say? With a title like The Halo Effect, I was prepared to be wowed, chilled to the bone, or at the very least experience sleepless nights over the thought of prostitutes being slain, and their bodies being brutalized in the most vile and ritualistic ways.
I wasn’t, and I didn’t. Lose any sleep that is.
MJ is obviously a good writer, but unfortunately, in my opinion, The Halo Effect was not a good enough example of what’s she’s capable of.
Everybody has different requirements from different books and different genres. When I read romance, I want to be moved in some way, when I read non-fiction, I want to learn new things, and when I read psychological thrillers, I expect them to be exactly that. Thrilling.
The Halo Effect didn’t come anywhere near to fulfilling any of my requirements.
I had several problems with book. The first of which, being the overall feel of the book. It probably sounds a little weird, but in my opinion, there was a distinct lack of atmosphere and ambience. It felt flat, and tended to read flat too.
The reason that it took me so long to read this book was that it failed to hold my attention until I was way deep into the story. Dare I say, some parts of it bored me to the point of tears.
The opening scene, which was obviously meant to draw the reader in straight away, failed to even raise an eyebrow. I thought the beginning was quite clichéd, yet I know that similar opening chapters have been handled far better by other authors in the past.
I also had a problem with the development of Morgan Snow. The sex therapist’s character was wishy-washy at best, and throughout the book, I never got a real sense of who she was, and what her motivations were. Yes, I knew that she cared about Cleo, the hooker, and she had issues that stemmed from her childhood blah blah blah, but apart from this kind of information, which the author clearly provided, I found it hard to empathise with her.
It may be that the author wrote her that way, I don’t know.
Another stick-my-finger-in-the-socket-till-I-die annoyance for me, was that every now and then Morgan would do something that I felt was out of character, for instance, posing as a hooker in order to get more information on Cleo’s clients. This is a smart intelligent woman. Why would she put herself in such obvious danger? I’m sorry, I just didn’t buy it.
Later on, she also does something so monumentally stupid, that I felt like slapping her round the room several times. Needless to say, she landed herself in deep shit, because of her actions.
I managed to guess who the murderer was early on in the story, and I was only working from the same clues that the supposedly uber-intelligent sex therapist had. So why, oh why couldn’t she figure it out?
There were also a couple of incidents that were never fully explained by the end of the book, such as the inconsistencies in Cleo’s description of her clients. Perhaps this was deliberate on the authors part? Once again, I really don’t know.
In psychological thrillers, I expect the lead characters to be at least one step ahead of me, and quite frankly, if I’d shelled out hundreds of dollars to a therapist who couldn’t even read between the lines, I’d want a refund.
One other thing I noticed during the reading of this book, was that it almost had a Patricia Cornwellesque feel to it, but without any of the savvy of a Kay Scarpetta investigative, or indeed the style.
People will object to my making the comparisons, but if you read a Kay Scarpetta book, and you read The Halo Effect, I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Or maybe not.
The other main characters in the book was Noah Jordain, the obligatory tough-but-caring detective, who was in charge of investigating the murders.
He was obviously the love interest, but if I’m honest, Morgan and Noah had about as much chemistry, as Anna Nicole Smith and J Howard Marshall.
Their relationship just felt too contrived, somehow. I knew they were going to eventually have a tumble between the sheets, but it would have been nice to build the tension first.
The one beacon of light in the book was Cleo, the high-classed hooker. The depth that I thought Morgan Snow lacked, could easily be found in this character. She fascinated me, and I was quite drawn to her, very much like a spectator at a car crash. She was a puzzle that baffled me, yet I was able to empathise with her more than anybody else in the story.
Overall, I was very disappointed with The Halo Effect, and this once again reconfirms my belief that too much hype only helps build unrealistic expectations of what would have otherwise been a perfectly adequate read, under any other circumstances.