Closure by Randall Wood

Closure is the sort of book I’ve taken a pass on over the last few years, but after reading it I found myself wondering why. That’s the first good thing I can say about it: it rekindled my interest in fast-paced suspense novels involving law enforcement and the military and set in the real world – something I really hadn’t expected would happen any time soon. So how did it do it? Unlike the book’s title itself, one word doesn’t sum it up. One word doesn’t really sum Closure up either, or any of the ideas in it. So let’s open the file…

Closure is the kind of book where the scene changing and pacing make it feel more like a film. It’s a fast read partly thanks to this kind of cinematic montage, but with the added bonus of there being time to take in the details of every scene as well – a combination of fast pace and slow motion. In the middle of crime scene investigations the reader gets the same kind of appreciation and ‘attention to detail’ that the police and the CSI team get. The descriptions of the preparation and executions of sniper assassinations are riveting. The gaps in between the action are like getting an education in weaponry, technology and tactics on both sides of the law. It wasn’t simply the ‘Can they catch him?’ suspense that kept me reading Closure. The devil was always in the details. At no point did I feel like the details were replacing the story though, the way they sometimes do in TV shows like CSI or books where the author knows a lot about the subject matter but gets too carried away with it.

After reading a little about the author it was obvious that Randall Wood is a highly effective writer when it comes to using his own background and filtering the details down to what’s necessary and what will drive the story. Few debut novels I’ve seen even from well known authors are as concise and selective as this. If I want to compare authors, Patricia Cornwall is the one who really comes to mind here, although rather than focusing on autopsy or medical details, Closure is more grounded in weaponry and technology. Although for the record, I did cringe at one familiar line involving pathologists and patients who don’t speak, but this was the only time I reached for the highlight feature in anger throughout the book. Only in the last quarter of the story did I think that some of the detail was a little heavy and weighing the pace down (no specifics to avoid spoilers) but this didn’t stop me wanting to reach the end.

Where this book didn’t excel for me was dialogue. It was all very run of the mill and typical talk between crime teams throughout, and even in the more reflective moments I didn’t find myself highlighting any great one-liners or those little moments where I sometimes get the ‘Wish I’d thought of that’ vibe. This didn’t hinder the book, but it’s the one thing I usually enjoy that was missing.

Apart from the two main characters, Sam and Jack, there wasn’t the character depth I normally like in book of this length, but if I’m honest this is a personal preference rendered irrelevant by how much fun I had reading Closure, and I never picked up it expecting a deep insight into the human condition anyway. It’s a book that delivers what the cover and synopsis promised.

It’s also the kind of book that could keep me immersed for hours at a time (I read at a slow pace and don’t like skimming), and what I’m really taking away from it is that although a lot of characters served a function rather than being fully rounded people, Closure did manage to be serious and reflective at times without getting too bogged down in philosophy or psychological analysis – a pit many writers fall into no matter what their genre. Politics did come out to play a number of times but Randall Wood as the author avoided any kind of political preaching or side-picking through his subject matter, leaving it to me as the reader to make up my own mind. In the end, perhaps the irony of the title is that there are no firm conclusions about some questions apart from those the reader might decide on.

If there is one big message in this book then I’m still trying to work out exactly what it is, and maybe that’s the point: it explores a number of ideas effectively while using the central plot of the FBI trying to catch a killer as a focus point for all of it. If you like reading books where you question who the bad guys really are then this is a read for you. Closure is the sort of suspense read where you can think you’re getting into familiar territory with a predictable conclusion only to have something different happen. In the middle there are two particularly good sections with ‘loaded lines’ where I thought I could guess the rest of the book, but kept reading because the skill behind the first half of the book made me sure I would be proven wrong. Cat and mouse games with the reader are a kind of mirror to what’s happening on the page. I loved all that, and I’d go back for more in other books by the same author.

It’s been a while since I’ve read these authors but I’m willing to put this down anyway: if you get on with the likes of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum or Frederick Forsyth, give this book a try. Apart from perhaps Clancy’s writing, Closure has a more modern authorial style with less padding. As far as the police and the FBI went, and the people with business backrounds like Jack Randall, I found myself reminded of early Eric Lustbader (the novels under his own name, before continuing the Bourne books) but without the Japenese background or the ultra-violence. Action is well described and gory detail certainly given in Closure, but it’s more the bottom-end of the R rating (or a ‘15’ if you’re in the UK.) If you’re this kind of reader, check this book out.

If you’re an author looking to hone your craft or indeed just take a lesson in first class presentation, hooking the reader, making the story the main focus and maintaining effective pacing, get a copy of this book.