It’s a good thing I’m not a detective: I’d be hopeless at it. I don’t notice what people are wearing, am often blissfully unaware of what’s going on around me, and would certainly overlook clues.
Nor am I a fiction writer. Step by step instructions, help files and manuals are my thing. The notion of putting together a story line, creating characters or writing dialogue just fills me with horror.
I do read detective novels though, and tend to have something of an editor’s eye as I do so.
I admire the work of Marcia Muller, whose Sharon McCone series has kept me enjoyably entertained for many hours. I’ve been collecting her books, and have re-read many of them more than once.
Her characters are real, the plots interesting and the internal logic consistent.
These are high quality books I can relax with. I can rely on them for a jolly good read.
I wish I could say the same for the detective novel I’m currently reading, Cruel Intent. My partner borrowed it from the library, and I hijacked it. I have nothing much else to read at the moment, so I’m sticking with it, and parts of it are holding my interest.
But pretty much every page of the book annoys me. The editor on this novel must have been away with the faeries, rather than doing the job in hand.
For example, the main character, Ali, discovers that the wife of the main contractor renovating her house has been brutally murdered. Ali seems to have no real reaction to this news, no intake of breath, no shock, no questions, no exclamations.
The news seems no more meaningful than an announcement that hot weather’s on its way.
But perhaps Ali is just cold, or inured to such shocking news. Apparently her back story includes being a TV news reporter.
More annoying by far is where the author contradicts herself within the space of a page or paragraph. For example, Dave the detective says to Ali at one point:
… I’m sure you can understand that I can’t reveal details of an ongoing investigation—not even to you.
Fair enough, you think, but Dave’s very next words are:
I will tell you, though, that some details have come up that give us grounds to be suspicious of Bryan Forester.
So, he’s not going to tell her anything, except he does.
Later on the same page we find Dave (still not revealing details, remember) saying that the
killer was someone operating in a blind rage. OK, except that Ali’s thought just 5 lines later is about the main suspect as a
cold-blooded killer. Blind rage? Or cold-blood?
Any author can make these mistakes, but I keep stumbling across them, and they interrupt the flow of my reading. The writing is just sloppy, and the editor didn’t catch it and tighten it up. This author has a bunch of books to her name, so she’s no newcomer to writing fiction either.
I guess I’m intrigued by the role of the Internet in the book (oh, except for Ali’s Mac being infected by a Trojan that delivers her personal info and files to the killer).
The author also starts the book by revealing the killer’s identity, so the novel is more an unravelling of how he is (presumably) caught. That’s intriguing. I still have about a quarter of the book to read as I write this, so I don’t know the outcome.
The sloppy writing has left me ambivalent about this author. I may read other of her novels that have a woman as the main character — if my partner brings them home from the library. Otherwise I’ll probably just look elsewhere.