three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-TheFallenWhen Robbie Brownlaw is thrown from a hotel window, the 29-year-old San Diego homicide detective suffers head trauma and becomes synesthetic. That is, his neurological wires cross and he starts to see voices as colored shapes. Red squares, for example, suggest deception. It’s not a bad quality for a detective to have, especially when he and his partner begin to investigate the death of a San Diego cop-turned-ethics-investigator. The victim had many enemies—from local politicians to a madam—and Brownlaw knows the death wasn’t a suicide. As his own marriage starts to crumble, Brownlaw must find the killer.
Morrow. 323 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0060562382

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Parker gets the pace and tone just right, maneuvering Brownlaw through the haunting despair that destroys families and the vindictive agendas that lead to murder. The Fallen is that rare novel that sends a reader scurrying off to find all the other books in the author’s catalog." Steve Duin

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Synesthesia aside, this is not an offbeat or gimmicky novel. … Parker keeps us guessing who killed the man and why, but the novel’s real strength lies in his fascination with how power is used and abused." Patrick Anderson

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While Brownlaw is nowhere near the classic California noir protagonist—he’s actually almost too nice—the story itself is a brainy, seriously entertaining piece of Golden State detective fiction." Gillian Flynn

Palm Beach Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"At its best, Parker’s work is tightly written, the plots taut and driven to surprising conclusions, the emotions raw, and the characters quirky and richly textured. … The Fallen isn’t as rich and compelling as those two earlier books [California Girl and Silent Joe], but it’s a fine story nonetheless, even for a reader who finds Robbie’s ‘synesthesia’ a bit gimmicky." Bruce DeSilva

Greensburg PA Trib Rev 3 of 5 Stars
"One of the most intriguing elements of the novel is how the condition affects [Brownlaw’s] relationship with his wife. … The Fallen is a solid mystery novel with a familiar, sturdy story—a murder, a young, callow homicide detective and his female partner investigate, the powers that be throw up roadblocks." Regis Behe

Critical Summary

Although critics could not decide whether Brownlaw’s synesthesia was a gimmicky element or not, they agreed that The Fallen is a riveting read—perhaps, claimed a few, not as good as the Edgar Award–winning California Girl and Silent Joe, but nearly so. This stand-alone classic police procedural, replete with its portrait of big-city crime and power-hungry politicians, follows a recognizable storyline. However, its lively writing, well-paced plot, rounded characters (from call girls to shady politicians), and twists stand out. Though he hasn’t achieved the fame of Michael Connelly or George Pelecanos yet, Parker belongs "in the first rank of American crime novelists" (Washington Post).

Supplemental Reading

California Girl | T. Jefferson Parker (2004): 3.5 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2005. In 1968, 19-year-old Janelle Vonn, a former Playboy cover girl and beauty queen, is found raped and decapitated. Back in high school, the three Becker boys used to fight with Janelle’s older brothers. Now one Becker is a cop, another a minister, and the third a crime reporter; they are determined to find her killer.

Motherless Brooklyn | Jonathan Lethem (1999): If you’re a sucker for detectives with a twist, don’t forget Lethem’s award-winning story of a private investigator with Tourette’s syndrome.