Review: Final Price (A Paul Chang Mystery book 1 of ?)

Final Price - J. Gregory Smith

When I started this book, I didn’t realize that it was the first in a series -- the Paul Chang Mystery series.  It appears the next book is Legacy of the Dragon and the third book is Send in the Clowns. However, this book stands completely on its own -- the ending wrapped everything up.

But don’t let the word “Mystery” in the series title fool you.  This is not, by my definition, a mystery.  Maybe the sequels are, but this book is not.  Two of the most common questions I expect to have when reading a mystery is, “Who’s the killer?” and “What’s the killer’s motive?”.  Both of these questions were answered in the synopsis for the book – not much mystery there!  I actually avoid reading synopses right before I read a book, so there was still some mystery for me when I started the book.  But it didn’t last long.  The basic motive was provided in the prologue.  The name of the killer was given the next time he made an appearance, on page 36.  I would instead classify this as a thriller.  The book alternates between the points of view of the killer and the detective who’s trying to solve the case.  We know what the characters know and we know what they’re thinking.  The only real question that I was asking while I read the book was, “What will happen next?”

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the book.  I like thrillers just as much as I like mysteries, if they’re written well.  This is, in fact, a very fast-paced (and short) book.  The story is entertaining, and I liked the characters pretty well.  Of course I didn’t like the murderer since, as a rule, I’m not fond of evil psychopaths.  But he was interesting to read about.  I did really like Detective Chang’s sidekick, Nelson.  He was interesting and quirky; I wanted to see more of him.  Chang himself, on the other hand, I never completely warmed up to.  My main issue with him was his poor ethics.  He did what he wanted without any regard to whether it was ethical or legal or even necessary for solving the case.

I found some aspects of the book unrealistic.  For example, I don’t really know anything about investigation procedures, but wouldn’t it be standard operating procedure to run financials on murder victims?  If the murder was based on money, then that would potentially shed light on the motive.  The motive might, in turn, lead to the killer.  If the detective had run financials on these victims, the connection between the murder victims would have been obvious much sooner and the killer might have been found more quickly.  

Also,

since nearly all the murder victims spent time at the same two dealerships, you would think somebody from one of those dealerships would have made the connection.  At the dealership where the murderer worked, the manager and the salesmen all seemed to be pretty aware of each other’s clients – especially the more difficult ones who became the murder victims.  I also think that people who work in sales, and who are expected to remember and be sociable with their clients, are likely to be pretty good at remembering faces.  The serial killings were getting a lot of publicity and worrying a lot of people.  It seemed implausible to me that nobody noticed several of the murder victims had been at their dealership.  Would they have thought it worth mentioning to the police?  Maybe not at first, and possibly not in time to help the case get solved faster, but it probably would have made them start paying more attention.  That in turn would have increased the likelihood that they would recognize other victims and get freaked out enough to contact the police.

(show spoiler)


Whew – that’s a long review for a short book!  In summary, the book was entertaining and held my interest.  However, it had some minor flaws and there wasn’t anything that really made it stand out for me over other books in the genre.  I liked it, and don’t regret the time I spent reading it, but it didn’t “wow” me.  Thus I’m rating it with three stars.