‘The Murder Notebook’ a sketchy proposition

  The Chicago Tribune jacket blurb is what prompted me to pick up "The Murder Notebook."
  “One of the most intriguing and innovative crime-fiction writers to come along in years,” it promised. But I had yet to discover just in what ways the author was innovative.
  As it turns out, narrator/protagonist Nate Rodriguez is a police artist with some special skills that go beyond drawing, including the ability to coax forgotten details from witnesses who are trying to describe a suspect. His grandmother is a practitioner of Santeria, and he seems to have inherited some of the mysticism that is blended into that religion. Thus it is that he frequently draws scenes and people who he hasn’t actually seen.
  But that’s not where the book’s innovation comes in. Because Rodriguez is a forensic artist, his drawings are sprinkled throughout the book, in various stages of completion. Thus we see the bare outline of a suspect, and later sketches with the details filled in until the portrait is complete.
  It sounds like a gimmick but isn’t. Although at first it was a little jarring to find such illustrations in a novel, as I moved through the book I understood just how much the illustrations added, a picture being worth a thousand words and all that.
  Author Jonathan Santlofer is an artist as well as a writer, but I couldn’t find a credit for the book’s illustrations, and the portrait of Santlofer on the dust jacket is by a police forensic artist — whose name just happens to be Nate Rodriguez.
  Santlofer’s story builds an appropriate degree of suspense as it progresses, and all comes around into a neat (but not overly neat) circle, so the book is a superlative package, in my estimation.
  But we all know that truth can be stranger than fiction — and certainly more chilling. And the appendices at the end, which prove this to be a fact-based novel, attest to that.

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