Hardcover: 258 pages
Reading Level: Age 18+
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing (May 5, 2015)
Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped…Alone…Terrified.
Now forget her…
Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge.
She is methodical—calculating— scientific in her plotting. A clinical sociopath? Leaving nothing to chance, secure in her timing and practice, she waits—for the perfect moment to strike. Method 15/33 is what happens when the victim is just as cold as the captors.
The agents trying to find a kidnapped girl have their own frustrations and desires wrapped into this chilling drama. In the twists of intersecting stories, one is left to ponder. Who is the victim? Who is the aggressor?
I received a free copy of Method 15/33 from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This is author Shannon Kirk’s debut novel, so one of the factors in my decision to request the ARC were the glowing reviews already available on Goodreads. I began this novel with high expectations. Unfortunately, Method 15/33 did not deliver.
Lisa Yyland is a neurological anomaly – her frontal lobe, the area of the brain that controls reason and planning, is enlarged. As a result, Lisa is not only a genius, she’s also able to turn her emotional responses on and off like a light switch. Even in times of extreme crisis, she is able to remain as calm and rational as a battle-hardened veteran.
Ms. Kirk illustrates this character trait by briefly recounting an incident when Lisa saves her first grade class from a gun-toting drug addict by yelling “air raid” and pulling the fire alarm, which causes the shooter to drop his weapon and dive for cover. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to buy the idea of a six-year-old, even one who is a prodigy, possessing enough wisdom to recognize a junkie experiencing a psychotic break, you might enjoy Method 15/33. I couldn’t and the book went downhill from there.
Despite Ms. Kirk’s writing honors from the Faulkner Society and the praise heaped on her novel from several award-winning authors, I found multiple rookie mistakes, including “as you know, Bob” info dumps, allowing the author’s voice to intrude by having the narrators directly address the audience, and using twenty-five cent words when nickel words would do, as early as the first chapter. Part of the problem appears to stem from the stylistic choices Ms. Kirk makes for her story.
Method 15/33 is told from the alternating viewpoints of Lisa and FBI Special Agent Roger Lui. However, both Lisa and Agent Lui are recounting the incident in flashback from seventeen years after the abduction, which leads to a lot of passive voice in the narration on top of all the other issues. One of the least necessary of Ms. Kirk’s blunders is her decision to withhold the name of one of the main characters until halfway through the book. For the first 11 chapters I thought Lisa’s name was Dorothy because Agent Lui kept referring to the pregnant, kidnapped girl he was searching for by that name. I might have been able to accept one unreliable narrator as a plot device. Two is overkill.
Six chapters into Method 15/33, I’d failed to find a reason to care about any of the characters. By the end of the book, indifference turned to active dislike. Lisa, in particular, struck me as overly arrogant and condescending even for an adolescent. At one point, she waxes poetic about her “homicidal intent” toward the incompetent captors who are obviously beneath her. Really? Really?! I have a teenager of my own who isn’t nearly as obnoxious as this character.
In one of Ms. Kirk’s bungled attempts to create a more likable protagonist, Lisa tells her reader she has turned on her emotional switch where her unborn child is concerned. It is her love for her baby (as opposed to her own sociopathic tendencies) that fuels Lisa’s rage and impels her to plot the death of her captors in excruciating detail and with obvious relish. Unfortunately, Ms. Kirk fails to show maternal love or any other emotion through her writing. Rather, I felt I was being told when Lisa experienced emotion rather than genuinely connecting with her.
The other major character, Roger Lui – a drama club geek turned special agent, struck me as vapid and whiny. If only he hadn’t been gifted with vision better than a fighter pilot or with hyperthymesia – AKA a really good memory that allows him to recall every day of his life in perfect detail. Maybe then he could have been happy as an actor instead of getting snapped up after applying to the FBI. Cry me a river. Oh, wait…psych! He actually has a compelling reason for choosing a career law enforcement, but that pesky little detail is also withheld until near the end of the book. Have I mentioned Ms. Kirk is fond of the unreliable narrator trope? His partner, Lola, is a stereotypical butch, complete with chewing tobacco and Old Spice cologne, desperately overcompensating for the crime of having breasts in a male-dominated career field. This walking cliche doesn’t just have a chip on her shoulder, she’s carrying the whole potato. Both characters are as flat as their descriptions suggest.
Although Method 15/33 is billed as a gripping thriller, I was hard pressed to find anything thrilling about it. In fact, the unbelievable fish yarn that is Method 15/33 grows less realistic with each chapter until it finally jumps the shark when Lisa stages her escape. This novel could have been remarkable, but it fell far short of that promise. A concept this ambitious requires a master storyteller to pull it off. Sadly, Shannon Kirk does not yet have the experience to do it justice. If your tastes run to revenge fantasy, Method 15/33 might be your cup of tea. To me, the bottom of the Boston Harbor seemed like a more fitting place for this novel.