The Murder Complex
by Linday Cummings
Expected Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Length: 400 pages
Source: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the work.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View from the Traffic Light:
An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.
Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.
The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?
I was really hoping The Murder Complex would be awesome, but I found it a bit derivative of popular science fiction books these past few years. I know almost every science fiction/Dystopia book gets compared to Divergent or the Hunger Games, so it’s a similarity I’ve been careful to use sparsely when writing reviews. For The Murder Complex, though, I’m bringing the formula in the picture above out.
The Murder Complex had a strong start. In fact, if you had asked me to rate this book at 25% through, I would have given it at the very least four stars. Unfortunately, this spiraled downward fairly quickly. The concept of the murder rate being higher than the birth rate is one that is fascinating and dark, and I loved the danger that laid hidden in every page of this book. Had the story stayed in that arena, my overall opinion of it would be a lot better.
First, let me talk about the things I *DID* like about The Murder Complex. The pacing in this book is excellent, and I think Cummings is a talented writer. While I probably won’t continue this series, I will definitely read future books. What really drove this home for me is that the book is split into a dual POV, and unlike other books. . . I didn’t hate it. In fact, I could even tell the characters apart and came to quickly like the dual POV. These things together made me really like Cumming’s writing, but not the story that was being told.
The Murder Complex felt formulaic for a YA science fiction thriller. Basically, the story went thus: crappy world, horrible incident, protagonist meet, insta-love time, oh-no something bad happens, things get worse, something is revealed, science is evil, shocking revelation, unnecessary cliffhanger ending. This could have been done well, of course–many of my favorite stories have that formulaic element. Just look at Harry Potter! But the insta-love part bothered me a lot. And even though the instalove that Zephyr feels towards Meadow is contrasted with the fact that, you know, he tries to kill her because he’s been programmed to, the end game still felt insta-lovey to me.
Another problem I had was with the world-building. Now, the actual description of the world was excellent(and it’s those glimmers of promise that kept me reading this book and kept it from ever falling into the one star category). It’s once certain things get revealed that I had trouble really buying into the premise. As alluded to in the summary, The Murder Complex deals with murder as a method of population control(I know this sounds a bit spoilery, but also it’s in the summary and I firmly promise NOT to talk about it more than the summary does, deal? It’s a bit surprising how much information they included in this particular synopsis). And, as also alluded to in the summary, The Murder Complex uses trained assassins to commit the murders.
Okay, fair enough, right? But here’s the thing: As more as revealed about how The Murder Complex trains and programs these assassins, the more absurd it seems. Yes, the population is out of control and this is a government and initiative that is tasked with feeding hundreds of people, and I suppose that without ethics, killing some seems like it would work almost as well as anything else. But seriously, the amount of money they spend for the technology to train their murderers could have been used for. . . hmmm, let’s see, food for the starving populations? If their solution to overpopulation is to kill people, there would be easier, cheaper, and more logical ways to do it than to use this technology to train their assassin.
The anti-science sentiment in The Murder Complex really got to me. This has long been a trend in YA science fiction and I’m sort of ready for it to die. There’s nothing wrong with showcasing the HOW science can be used for evil and awful things, but it’s the lack of subtlety that gets me as well. Of course science can be used for evil. But science and research has also done a lot of non-evil things, and I’m tired of books not really wrestling with that. How did the world in The Murder Complex get so overpopulated to begin with? SCIENCE. How did the world go from bad to worse? MORE SCIENCE!
My last problem I had with The Murder Complex is the needless violence. Now, look, that’s not a sentence I say very often. I mean, as someone who is an aspiring writer, I have written my fair share of violent scenes. And often, the point of violent in scenes IS that it’s needless–that’s sort of the point. Of course, the book is called the Murder complex, so I expect a LOT of murder and blood and gore. That’s part of the package, and I’m not objecting to that in particular. But the violence in The Murder Complex just overwhelms every page until it doesn’t even matter anymore. When every chapter ends with a knife at someone’s throat(it doesn’t really, but they all sort of feel like that), you lose the suspense. And that’s what The Murder Complex did. It just didn’t lack a punch after the halfway mark, so I definitely lost interest.
Here’s the thing with The Murder Complex: I spent a lot of digital ink in those paragraphs detailing the problems I had with the book, and all of those stand. However, I definitely did not hate this book, and really liked it at the beginning. That’s why the elements that fell flat disappointed me so. I really liked the beginning and the writing, but as evident, had some problems with the story itself. The quick pacing and excellent use of the dual POV held some promise, but ultimately I just can’t get behind the book as a whole. 2/5 cupcakes.