I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Martin Arkenhout found his true calling on a lonely Florida highway -- with a sharp rock to the skull of an injured friend. He didn't just take the boy's life; he went on to live it. When that life became too risky, he found another, and another, changing his name, papers and style at will, until he chose the wrong life -- a scholarly thief on the run from the determined and troubled John Costa. The two men will meet, and there will be murder. But there is something much worse: the sweet seduction of taking another's life to be your own. Chillingly suspenseful, brilliantly executed and truly disturbing, Taking Lives is an entertainment to make you think and shiver. (source)
"Chillingly suspenseful, brilliantly executed, and truly disturbing, Taking Lives is an entertainment to make you think and shiver." - I don't think I have ever been so misled by a book description. This book had the potential to be everything it claimed to be... if only Pye had chosen Arkenhout to narrate rather than the monotonous Costa.
I've never been a hugeeee fan of the thriller/suspense genre, but I have read some good books from it, thanks to book club and ARCs I've received. A good thriller/suspense novel should keep readers constantly on their toes, send goosebumps up their spines, and leave them ever-so-slightly afraid to turn off the lights when they go to bed. I've read thrillers like this: Snowblind by Christopher Golden, Ring by Koji Suzuki... and, unfortunately for Michael Pye, Taking Lives is no such thriller. And it should have been! The plot description alone is enough to make my hair stand on edge - a man who not only murders, but then steals his victims' identities? It's brilliant. But Pye's method of telling this story is, in my opinion, entirely wrong.
I think that Martin Arkenhout is a fascinating character. What would possess a man to commit the atrocities that he does? What happened during his childhood that made him completely fine with cutting off all ties to his own life? And what would go through his mind when people started to get on his trail? These are all questions that Pye should have spent more time focusing on. I think that having Arkenhout as a narrator would have been fascinating, and I believe that Pye did himself a major disservice by deciding against it.
The next obvious choice of narrator would be one of Arkenhout's victims - and this is the path that Pye chose to take. It's not a horrible choice and I think it had lots of potential - there's more room for fear, more opportunities for cliff-hangers. Unfortunately, yet again, Pye dropped the ball. John Costa is one of the most boring narrators I have ever encountered in literature. He's not a particularly likeable man - he doesn't care much for his dad until his dad dies, he doesn't appreciate his wife in the least bit, and he realizes who Arkenhout is, he's nowhere near as alarmed as he should have been. The book spends entirely too much time focusing on the subplot about Costa's father's past - to the point that Arkenhout's nefarious activities actually take a backseat to completely unrelated events that took place over forty years in the past. The dark secret that's revealed in Costa's father's past struck me as ultimately underwhelming and certainly not worth all the attention that it received. It distracted me from the main plot and, when combined with Pye's dry writing style, added up to the least-thrilling thriller that I've ever read.
I would not recommend this book to anyone. It was boring and I'm relieved that I'm done with it so I can move on to other things. I've heard that the movie adaptation is much better, but I've also heard that it has very little in common with the book. Based on that, I'd expect that fans of the movie would be sorely disappointed if they were to try to read this. I will not be revisiting this book and I have no intention to read anything from Pye in the future - this was simply too dull.