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Review: Secondhand Sight by Rocky Leonard

Dan Harper has a lot on his plate. He’s a computer programmer for Quick Pay and there is a glitch that he has to repair for one of his company’s clients within a week. His pregnant wife is in the hospital after fainting and hitting her head. He has a tennis tournament for the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA), which is the biggest recreational tennis league in the world. He plays doubles and Dan and his partner are one step away from reaching the A-1 level. This level would allow them to compete with former touring pros and college players. Easter Sunday is a few days away. And not to mention, there’s a serial killer on the loose and Dan is plagued with recollections from the murders that leads him to believe that he’s either psychic or the actual killer. He doesn’t believe in psychics, however, he doesn’t want to find out that he’s the killer either. Dan wants his life to go back to normal, yet that possibility seems slim since the visions won’t leave him alone and are taking over his life.

John L. Leonard’s novel, Secondhand Sight, is a gripping tale involving gruesome murders that have the police confounded. Detective Sergeant Bill Wassner is known in his department as the Bulldog who can close most cases within a week. He’s smart, resolute, and stubborn. Wassner is a man of action, who wants more than anything to solve an atrocious crime, which left one victim dead and another in the hospital. Given the details and brutality of the crime his gut tells him that this isn’t the first time the murderer has struck. He needs to convince others that the police are dealing with a serial killer. He also has to admit that he needs help on this case.

While Dan is trying to figure out if the visions he sees are due to his own actions, Wassner is working hard to solve the crimes. Unfortunately for Dan, several of the leads in the case point in his direction. Dan desperately wants to know the truth, but will he be able to live with it?

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Leonard’s second novel a day before I boarded a plane for New York City to attend the US Open. Since I’m a huge fan of tennis, I got a kick out of the fact that the main character in the novel is a tennis player. My flight was seven hours long and this novel turned out to be a great way to pass the time.

As I mentioned above, the main character has a lot going on, which means there are many components in the novel that need explanation. Nevertheless, I felt that the author spent too much time explaining trivial aspects of the back story instead of building up the tension concerning whether or not Dan was a serial killer. The back story should remain just that, especially in a supernatural thriller. In the beginning I quickly turned the pages to find out more. When I reached the climax, I felt somewhat cheated since the momentum had fizzled due to the overabundance of minor details and not enough action. I understand that research is pertinent to stories such as these. The reader should believe that the main character is a computer programmer and a tennis player. Personally, I don’t need a lot of convincing to believe this and don’t desire much discussion on writing code or tennis shots. What I want is more story that impels me to continue reading until I reach the last page.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Leonard’s novel. I did. I feel, though, that it could be tweaked a bit more to make it more suspenseful. I mentioned the above since I feel the author has great promise and I would love to see him improve and wow his readers. I give Secondhand Sight 3 out of 5 stars.



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  • ChrisM

    Found this review interesting, so I bought an ebook version. I’d rate it a 4. It’s got a good command of language with precise word choices and excellent grammar, often good images and realistic dialogue, mostly in the police scenes, which stay on track with a steady building of suspense. I really enjoyed much of the writing for its own sake.
    Away from the police, though, building suspense gets interrupted with unrelated things, stealing momentum from something I had just gotten interested in. When the author takes us back to the original crisis, he has to start building suspense for it all over again. For example, Dan gets home before his pregnant wife Beth, who has been having all-day morning sickness. She goes into the bathroom and ends up on the floor, having made it to a trashcan to throw-up, but not the toilet. He has tennis practice that night and they argue lovingly at length whether he should even go. She persuades him that he should, he goes, then he gives stats about his tennis team and where some of the players are from, where they work, etc. He comes back home and Beth doesn’t answer when he calls. He browbeats himself in detail for not staying home. He finds her unconscious on the bathroom floor and she ends up in the hospital. It would have been more effective to have the first fall to the bathroom floor build up to calling 911 with no interruption. I don’t have a problem with the story having “details”, just the placing of them, plus the repetition of some. Examples, why Beth doesn’t want a dog right now, the fact that her morning sickness drags on, and why, once they’ve given her medicine to combat the nausea, she shouldn’t eat too much at once right away. They discuss at length what kind of fruit he should get her at the hospital canteen, a topic that just doesn’t merit that much space. Often Dan goes into lengthy rationales for his choices when it would be obvious to the reader why he’s making that choice. For example, why he doesn’t want to tell Beth about his gruesome nightmares while she’s still in the hospital, feeling terrible. Stating the obvious has the effect of belaboring the point, or not trusting the reader to have understood what was already shown. Yet the book often excels in crisp language that is engaging and has great economy of expression. The exchanges with the detective are great, often with subtle shifts in attitude that keep you curious about the outcome.

    • http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/members/tbmarkinson/ tbmarkinson

      Hi Chris. I agree with you, I found the scenes with the detective wonderful and they really added to the story and to the build up of tension. Also, I was slightly confused that the author included so many details about minor points in the story, such as fruit choice that you mentioned above. I wondered if this was a technique he employed to build up suspense. However it didn’t work completely for me. Overall though, I enjoyed this story and I’m curious where the author will take his readers next.