Book Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

I can’t decide what I think about this book. I read it quickly and it kept me entertained, but there was absolutely nothing special about it.

3/5 stars

More like a 3-minus, honestly.

cover murder complex

Amazon description:

Meadow Woodson, a sixteen-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 the futuristic Florida Everglades. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, a secret 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? Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

The world-building of this book was interesting. Not jaw-droppingly unique, but the premise was enough to get me reading. I liked the dystopian world. It was simple but believable–you’ve got your powerful government, struggling citizens, and a disease that wiped out basically the entire world a few generations back. I liked that the world-building didn’t feel overly dystopian; I felt like the author at least tried to branch out of the stereotype in regards to the atmosphere of the book. Personally, the setting of this book felt like a combination of Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

The “Murder Complex” aspect of the book is unclear at the beginning and honestly is never really explained (even when, I think, it was supposed to be clear to the reader). I don’t want to spoil anything, but essentially a ton of people die every night (and the government is involved). This was the only part of the world building that really didn’t make sense to me–it just wasn’t logical how the citizenry responded to it, or when we learned more about it, the actual motivations and mechanisms behind it. Unfortunately, this was a major part of the world-building in regards to the plot.

I never really fell in love with either of the characters. Meadow was supposed to be this bad-ass, take-no-shit warrior, but there was no human element of her character to make her feel real. Even her relationship with her family–which was supposed to be a major portion of her psyche–felt flat and never pulled at my heart at all. I felt like Meadow was never anything other than a character who was given too many fight scenes and not enough development–by the end of the book, she was basically just killing everything that got in her way, but there were no emotional repercussions (more on that later).

Also, on a more petty note, her name really bothered me. “Meadow” made absolutely no sense for her–it just felt wrong for the character the author was trying to create. A few times, it actually distracted me from the story when someone called her by her name.

Zephyr was equally lack-luster, though perhaps a little more interesting. His place in the world as a ward of the government worked for his character, and I liked that he had a friend-based relationship with a girl (one of the wards he lived with) that didn’t involve romance. He was appropriately tormented over the people he had killed, and the times when the Murder Complex took over his body were some of the most intense scenes of the book. I cared about him more than I did any other character–though that by no means indicates that I had a strong emotional attachment to the guy.

The rest of the background were forgettable. I honestly didn’t like Meadow’s father, and didn’t care about her sister or brother. None of the characters felt well-rounded or real; they never came alive, which means I never gave a damn what happened to them.

The romance was…weird. It never fully developed, but at the same time it was Instalove-y. It’s hard to explain, but it ended up being very disappointing, especially because the main reason I decided to pick up this book was for a dose of unadulterated YA romance.

The plot was fine. It kept me entertained and I read the book in one sitting, but there were no “oh my God” moments. A few of the reveals were good–did not see them coming–but it kinda of felt like the author had sacrificed continutity and logic to surprise the reader. I liked the plot twist (there is one important one), but was the plot moved on past it, I kept picking at the logistics behind the reveal, and I was never satisfied that what the author said happened actually made any sense. Even the fight scenes failed to get my heart racing–another major disappointment from a book that is based around murder.

My biggest problem with this book was the killing aspect. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not opposed to characters killing people, and I’m fine with reading violent books. But the violence in this book had no emotional connection. Meadow kills a ton of people and never struggles with an internal moral conflict. What could have been a fascinating book was made flat and forgettable by the simple fact that the violence lacked repercussions and moral dilemmas. It failed to affect the plot, and actually started to get creepy (the lack of discussion over the number of people who died).

While it probably sounds like I hated everything about this book, it still strikes me as a 3 (minus, like an C-minus). Honestly, I kept reading the book, which counts for something. There was nothing remarkable about the book but there was nothing horrible. People looking for a random YA dystopia to read could look into this one–it’s possible someone who likes the genre as a whole more than I do might get more pleasure out of this book. I doubt I’ll read the second book.

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