22 August, 2010

Review: CSI-Sin City, by Max Allan Collins

CSI: Sin City
by Max Allan Collins

Media tie-in novels generally fall into two categories: those that seek to accurately replicate the feel of the original source material in book form, and those that attempt to use the original source material as a stepping off point to explore that source material’s characters or even concepts. Sin City very much falls in the first of these categories – not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily a good thing either.

Like an episode of CSI, the book follows two murder investigations simultaneously: one the murder of a church-going housewife, the other of a stripper at a Las Vegas strip joint. Both stories are handled fairly straight-forward, in basic prose that rarely even remotely aspires to literature. The unfortunate consequence of this is that many of the series regulars (the book is set roughly during CSI’s first few seasons, so that means Grissom, Catherine, Brass, Warrick, Stokes, and Sara) come off as rather flat and cartoonish, with little or no depth or personality; anyone reading this book not already familiar with them from the TV series would probably have a difficult time keeping track of who the characters were, much less why we should care for them. This is probably the books’ greatest weakness, and is likely to disappoint those fans who pick up tie-in novels hoping for a more in-depth look at their favorite characters. On the other hand, the unencumbered prose does make for an exceedingly quick read, and the mysteries themselves -- while a little predictable -- are at least presented in an engaging enough manner to satisfy most fans of CSI.

Bottom line is, it’s a media tie-in novel, so unless you are a fan of CSI or at least reasonably familiar with its conventions, this book probably isn’t for you. But if you are a fan and are interested in what is essentially a no-frills police procedural, Sin City is at least worth the few hours of diversion-among-familiar-friends the novel will give you.

Rating: ***

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