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BOOK
CSI: Miami
Harm for the Holidays
Misgivings

Author: Donn Cortez
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 2633 9
ISBN-10: 1 4165 2633 1
Available 04 December 2006


Christmas in Miami - the city is wrapped in its own unique festive cheer, and countless children breathlessly await the arrival of Santa Claus. Except this year there are hundreds of Santas. Miami has been invaded by the Red Menace. An annual gathering of hundreds of red-suited, jolly old fat men and women swarm over the city, comical and annoying, until one of them turns up dead. In what should be a time of goodwill to all the Miami-Dade Crime Lab finds that what appears to be the simplest of crimes hides darker motives. Who would want to kill Santa? Who would go to such lengths to conceal the identity of a victim that they would decapitate him and remove both his hands? And how does a simple convenience store robbery suddenly spiral into an international incident of kidnapping and murder...?

Misgivings is the first book in the Harm for the Holidays series of CSI: Miami novelisations. With the run up to Christmas 2007, even the CSI team manage to get festive... sort of.

Don't be expecting office parties and fun and frolics though, this book still regains the trademark murder/mystery puzzle solving that we've come to know and love. This book follows the CSI: Miami Dade Crime Lab as they try to piece together the evidence of three very different crimes.

First there is the case of a man who winds up dead dressed in a Santa suit. Part of a huge group of revelling mischievous men and women, who are out to enjoy themselves dressed as Santa, this man obviously over did things a little. But was it merely a case of over indulgence? Or is foul play at work?

Then there's the torso of man, with no arms, legs or head, found in the swamp. His boat has also sunk to the bottom of the swamp. What is his story?

Finally there is the case of a man who is knocked unconscious in a convenience store altercation. The man claims he was knocked out when he intervened in an argument. The only evidence of the real criminal is a CCTV film where the man's face is covered. And the only fingerprint that is definitely from the would-be robber doesn't match the unconscious man - who is the main suspect.

I had slight issues with this book as the author spends ages carefully plotting the crimes and weaving an intricate web of misdirection and back story, only to conclude everything in a couple of pages without really explaining things thoroughly.

What we are left with is one case that is closed and makes sense; one crime that is explained but when you sit back and analyse it you realise it just doesn't make sense; and the final mystery is kind of left hanging in mid-air as to what on earth is really going on - you get the start of something you know is much bigger.

The murder that I mentioned that didn't really make much sense is a little bizarre and logically just doesn't add up. Without giving too much away, the murder is executed in order to help the criminal perform a robbery. However, a lot of other factors could have prevented the criminal from pulling off the robbery - the murder just seems one step too far. Also, why couldn't the all important switch simply be achieved in a toilet (with the real item being thrown out a window for an accomplice to catch? Or stored on the thief's person until they could dispose of it somewhere they could pick it up from later. And how did they know what they would be wearing that night so that someone could copy it and make the switch? These questions don't seem to have been answered fully, which is a shame.

And the mystery that was never really explained, and looks like it may have terrorist connections, is also rather quickly explained away. No real motive is given, nor a proper explanation of what on earth the magazine argument was all about. If the criminal intended to put his plan in action that day, what on earth was that magazine waving antic all about? Wouldn't it have made more sense for him not to have caused attention to himself in that way?

Despite my misgivings, I did enjoy Misgivings. The characters are well formed and the CSI team all act and sound like their on screen versions. But it's a bit of a crime that the author, having beautifully set up the crimes, didn't think to spend a bit more time plugging up the holes in the plot.

Nick Smithson

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