The Gingerbread Man

The Gingerbread Man

Maggie Shayne

340 pages

Accessed for free for Kindle, free at time of review’s publication

I’m always unsure if I should review material that’s just set at Halloween but isn’t necessarily horror. Or things that are about horrific situations that aren’t actually genre.

This is one of those books that fall into that gray area. Falling completely out of my normal genre reading range. The Gingerbread Man is a crime novel set in Upstate. Honestly, because it fell so far outside of my normal reading range, the only thing that kept me reading past the past few pages was homesickness-and Shayne does seem to be familiar with Upstate (or can fake it well, I’m not sure which).

There’s a certain quality to living in Upstate that can be hard to peg down, including certain language patterns (does anyone say Moxie outside of CNY and Upstate anymore?) and attitudes towards strangers (we’re not known for accepting outsiders with open arms, regardless of what people would like to have you think otherwise, and often to the shock of people who are trying to move into small Upstate towns thinking that it’s quaint and loving). I want to say that Syracuse isn’t as gritty as what Shayne makes it sound like but then I’m reminded of the string of assaults occurring just of Le Moyne’s campus when I was enrolled at Oswego.

Once I was drawn in by the setting I did find the storyline to be solid. I will say that I figured out most of the twists relatively early in the reading but there was enough misdirection that I was wondering for most of the book if I was right, or if I had misread the clues. I had some issues with the characterization however, or rather, the quality of writing during the characterization. Shayne’s male characters remain pretty solid throughout the entire book but the quality of writing improves dramatically in relation to the female characters once she stops trying to convince the reader that they’re weak people. She has a habit of trying to set up the women as victims during early introductions, but then show the reader that no, they’re really strong, powerful people! And the quality of writing drastically improves once she’s make that shift.

Fair warning however, the book centers around crimes occurring to children, so if that’s a trigger subject I would avoid this one. The discussion surrounding the actual crimes however is pretty vague and with one notable exception occurs out of scene. There is a slight amount of sexual content, but actually far less than what I was expecting for a crime-romance. There is a small amount of profanity and two direct murder scenes in the book, the rest of the violence is implied.

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