An overly long series of sadly missed opportunities
Jan 27, 2010
EROS is a high end, very expensive, intensely private and ultra-kinky erotic on-line chat room service. When several normally high frequency users of the service drop off line but continue to allow the almost exorbitant debits to be charged to their bank accounts, Harper Cole, the EROS systems operator, becomes suspicious and worried. As a skilled internet derivatives, commodities and futures trader, he is well aware of the power of money and is justifiably concerned that something has happened to this set of vanishing customers. Further investigation with the help of his colleague, Miles Turner (a very eccentric geek type with extraordinary computer skills) morphs these worries into an ironclad certainty that these customers have been murdered by another EROS customer whom they label "Brahma".
They also discover that Brahma has murdered a male EROS customer and stolen his on-line EROS persona to trap unwitting victims.
When they bring their suspicions to the attention of the authorities, local police and the FBI immediately place him and Miles as #1 and #2 on the suspect list for the string of brutal serial killings concentrating their efforts, of course, in this completely wrong direction. Cole and Turner realize that their own freedom, not to mention the lives of other EROS subscribers, depend on their trapping the killer themselves. Concocting an elaborate on-line false identity, they conduct an elaborate ruse to bring the killer into the open but time after time, the brilliant killer sniffs out his pursuers and remains one step ahead of them. They come to realize that they are now targets and, not only have they placed themselves in dire peril, but they've managed to endanger Cole's child, the mother of his child and his trusting wife.
Greg Iles has created a plot with the potential to sizzle off the page - sex, brutality, blood and guts, computer technology, cat and mouse games with an insanely brilliant and devious killer - but, sadly, "Mortal Fear" is actually an overly long, under-edited series of sadly missed opportunities.
"Mortal Fear" could have delved into the sociological ramifications of on-line sex as a form of infidelity. It didn't. "Mortal Fear" could have dug deeply into the legal issues of "right to privacy". It didn't. "Mortal Fear" could have discussed the psychological impact of incest on its participants and victims. It didn't. "Mortal Fear" could have provided some absolutely fascinating sidebars on the science of transplants, hemophilia and the pineal gland, in particular. It didn't. (I know, I know ... that came out of left field but if you actually bother to read "Mortal Fear" after reading this review, you'll discover how these things fit into Iles' plot!) "Mortal Fear" could have discussed the esoteric art of serial killer profiling in considerably greater detail. It didn't. On top of that, each and every one of his characters were quite flat. There was lots of action, lots of dialogue and lots of movement but none of it really seemed to lift the story off the page into believability.
Frankly, a poor effort overall in comparison to some of his other page turners such as "Turning Angel". Not recommended.