Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Review: The Killing of Mindi Quintana, by Jeffrey A. Cohen


The Killing of Mindi Quintana
by Jeffrey A. Cohen
published 2010

When I was offered a chance to review this book by Lisa of TLC Book Tours, I admit I was hesitant.  Typically, I stay away from mysteries, crime stories, thrillers and the like. But because this one is set in my hometown of Philadelphia and its author Jeffrey A. Cohen is a local guy, I agreed to give it a try.

While there were aspects of this novel that didn't work for me (and one almost doesn't want to say such because Mindi, an editor at a literary magazine, is killed after providing constructive criticism and feedback of her murderer/wannabe-boyfriend's writing), there were some parts that worked well.

Among other things, The Killing of Mindi Quintana is a novel about wanting more out of life, about wanting what you can't have, and about the lengths some people go to attain such.  Freddy Builder is a manager at Philadelphia's renowned department store, Chanet's (a stand-in for our venerable Wanamakers, perhaps?). Overseeing the china department is simply a job to him; one that he does well, mainly because he creates elaborate eye-catching displays of his fragile merchandise.

Cohen uses the displays of china as a symbol of Freddy's inner self, that part of him - of all of us, really - that desires to be noticed, to have our talents recognized, to be able to point to something and say I created that.  It's also a symbol of how, in life, sometimes one doesn't know when to stop, when to recognize the one incident that is going to reveal our inner fragility, to cause all that we've worked for and strived for (even if it doesn't seem like much) to come crashing down.

In Freddy's case, his work is recognized - but it's not what he wants acclaim for.  The higher-ups of Chanet's have plans for Freddy, and their scheming makes for some of the novel's funniest moments (think of "The Office"; we all know of - or have worked for - someone who is like the Chanet managerial team).  Cohen captures this corporate cluelessness brilliantly.

Freddy becomes unhinged as a result of several episodes, beginning with his chance encounter with Mindi, who he once briefly dated several years earlier.  Clearly, he wants more from their relationship than she does, and he doesn't take kindly to her constructive criticisms of his writing, and her attempts to edit their relationship into something less than what .  Prison offers Freddy the chance to write his literary masterpiece, to become a celebrity for something of his own doing, not what he is paid to do, and for an ernest public defender to take him (and society's penchant for such tell-all tales) to task.

It's a compelling premise and as previously mentioned, there are some strong points of the novel with the managers at Chanet's and the workings of the legal system.  That wasn't enough, however, to fully connect me to the story or the characters. Because the novel is told in third person, the reader could have perhaps benefitted by seeing more into Mindi's character, for instance. Several of the characters seemed a bit juvenile, and I thought that the cursing and other ... acts ... were, at times, gratuitous.

There also seemed to be too much unnecessary description in parts (in one instance, there's a lengthy narrative about a particular Center City - downtown Philadelphia - building, where the reader is informed that the University of Pennsylvania has offices on one floor, some defunct or bankrupt corporation has space on others, and something having to do with beagles are also taking up space there.) 

On a personal level, I also read this through the lens and perspective of someone who has worked for several years in the domestic violence field.  In that regard, I believe that The Killing of Mindi Quintana has an important message to offer about dating violence and that, above all, is what I sincerely appreciate and value about this book. Sadly, there are all too many Mindi Quintanas who have been killed because they didn't feel the same about a partner or rebuffed them (even politely, as Mindi attempted to do).  Statistics show that leaving is the most dangerous time for someone in a domestic violence relationship. Many of us have walked in the shoes of Lisa - Mindi's friend who, perhaps, realizes too late what she didn't want to know.

The Killing of Mindi Quintana is a good first effort for Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, like his character Freddy, he certainly has the desire and passion to write. There are elements of this story and his writing that do, indeed, work nicely together and will be strong components of future works. Perhaps through The Killing of Mindi Quintana, Mr. Cohen's words will somehow be able to help someone in a relationship gone bad by allowing them to see themselves reflected in his characters - before lives, like precariously arranged fragile china, become shattered.

Thank you very much to TLC Book Tours for providing me a copy of The Killing of Mindi Quintana for review.  I was not compensated in any way for this review and my thoughts are entirely my own.

What Other Bloggers Thought:
Jen's Book Thoughts
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
My Two Blessings
Starting Fresh

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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