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The Shimmer by David Morrell

Title:  The Shimmer

Author:  David Morrell

No. of Pages:  331

First Released:  2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N):  “When a high-speed chase goes terribly wrong, Santa Fe police officer Dan Page watches in horror as a car and gas tanker explode into flames. Torn with guilt that he may be responsible, Page returns home to discover that his wife, Tori, has disappeared.

Frantic, Page follows her trail to Rostov, a remote town in Texas famous for a massive astronomical observatory, a long-abandoned military base, and unexplained nighttime phenomena that draw onlookers from every corner of the globe. Many of these gawkers—Tori among them—are compelled to visit this tiny community to witness the mysterious Rostov Lights.

Without warning, a gunman begins firing on the lights, screaming “Go back to hell where you came from,” then turns his rifle on the bystanders. A bloodbath ensues, and events quickly spiral out of control, setting the stage for even greater violence and death.

Page must solve the mystery of the Rostov Lights to save his wife. In the process, he learns that the decaying military base may not be abandoned at all, and that the government may have known about the lights for decades. Could these phenomena be more dangerous than anyone could have possibly imagined?”

Comments and Critique:  This is my first experience with David Morrell’s work.  I can see how he would be considered a great thriller writer.  Unfortunately, I suspect that The Shimmer is not an example of his best work, which is extremely disappointing because it has such great potential.

The premise itself is intriguing.  Mysterious, unexplained lights hold some interest for me because there is a location north of Houston, Texas that has a similar phenomenon.  My husband took me to see these particular lights when we were first dating.  Besides, I’m a sucker for anything that is unexplained and has a hint of something otherworldly.  The Rostov lights are based on the real-life Marfa lights in West Texas, also unexplained and mysterious.  In fact, Mr. Morrell mentions that many of the events that occur in the book are based on experiences that occurred around the Marfa lights.  It all makes for a lot of potential for the book.

My disappointment with the book has to do more the with pacing of the plot and the lack of character development.  I never felt sympathy with any of the main characters, never understood why they chose certain actions, never feared for their safety.  To me, the characters were caricatures rather than characters – the jaded policeman, the evil military officer with his own secret agenda, the wife who doesn’t understand the husband, and so forth.  As for the plot, it moved so quickly that I never got a chance to absorb what was happening.  By the time I got to the climax of the story, I was so confused that it took me a day to understand it.  I understand that the pace was designed to build suspense, but it is difficult to build suspense when the reader doesn’t particularly care what happened.

Another point of disappointment was how Mr. Morrell chose to explain the mysteries.  The answers were the only reason that I kept turning the pages – I did want to find out the reasons why for all of the situations.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed here as well.  In fact, the explanations left a particularly sour taste in my mouth and a definite WTH moment.  I understand that Mr. Morrell was working with real-life unexplained phenomenon, but I feel that he could have explained them a bit more satisfactorily.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad book, in spite of my words to the contrary.  It kept me reading as I wanted to find out what happened and how the lights were to be explained.  It isn’t Mr. Morrell’s fault that I had high, possibly unrealistic, expectations for the ending.  I can definitely see this being made into a decent movie.  It wasn’t the worst book I’ve read but it wasn’t the best either.  I know many others are going to really enjoy The Shimmer.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

Thanks to Anna Suknov at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book!

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