Adrian McKinty is the best writer of novels that I have come across in my 66 years. He is better at describing the plight of victims than Dickens; better at dialogue than Robert Parker; as funny as David Rosenfeldt; as good at plotting as Nelson DeMille. Maybe he doesn't have the oddball characters of Carl Hiassen, but who does? And Hiassen is like a rich dessert. McKinty will make you work for some of it. His allusions range from classic literature and mythology to hum drum television. I think this is as good as it gets.
I thoroughly enjoy most Grisham books. This one, not so much. First, he leaves his area of expertise, law, for espionage. Second, and for the first time I can remember, I really did not care what happened to the main character. Third, the book bogs down with Italian lessons. I got the feeling he wrote it so he could deduct the cost of learning the language.
The basis for the plot is preposterous. If you don't slap your forehead and yell "What??" when it's finally revealed, you just aren't paying attention. It reads as though it was cobbled together the weekend before a deadline in a freshman composition class. The characters are 2 dimensional and the story line is riddled with inconsistencies and improbabilities, not the least of which concerns the photo around which this whole mess pivots. It was taken by a professional nearly 50 years ago at one of the most famous sporting events in history. It was chosen by the photographer as part of an exhibit. Yet, for the story to gain any traction, the reader must believe that only one copy has made its way into the hands of someone other than the photographer. As for the narrator, imagine James Earl Jones heavily overdosed on quaaludes.
Gruber's stories are all superficially different from each other. Characters, story locales and threads are, with a single exception, not repeated. What they all have in common is some supernatural overlay that ranges from obvious to subtle. What they also have in common is good writing. I have never read a book I enjoyed where the author could not handle dialogue. Gruber can. In this book he weaves together a wide variety of characters in a tangled plot of the full range of human qualities and foibles: love, guilt, revenge, hope, passion, and the quest to give meaning to one's life. The story takes place within the drug cartel wars of western Mexico into which the protagonist injects himself. It was thoroughly enjoyable. The narrator is superb. He is quite clearly fluent in Spanish, moves easily among male and female voices and, in the lead character sounds exactly like George Clooney.
Too much science and too little character and plot development made this more work than pleasure. The narrator tried to make up for it with melodrama but overdid it.
That's Elmore Leonard's phrase. The best part of this work is the narration. He handles a long list of characters (Think War and Peace.) with differing voices, accents and emotions, all done extremely well. However, this is a book in serious need of an editor. That would cut it by at least a third. It's a murder mystery (in the style of Ellery Queen, the locked room type stuff). But the murder doesn't happen until 2 hours 40 minutes into the book. Most of what precedes it is unnecessary. It doesn't advance the story. There are brutally banal conversations among the characters about phonetics and the difference between fiction and melodrama. It doesn't stop after the murder. You know what the difference is between cigarettes and chocolates? No you don't. Cigarettes are sold homosexually. Chocolates are sold heterosexually. The rest of the waste material is the author spouting off his opinions on British literature and history. He's not without knowledge. But who cares? Are you reading a mystery to find out how an Elizabethan stage is constructed? This is a guy who would make you sprint out the door at a cocktail party.
When I say sophomoric, I mean high school, not college. The dialogue is stilted, artificial, and trite. Even the narrative is awful. Stuff like this: "Deep down I had a feeling I wasn't going to like what she had to say." And this: "I wanted to ravish her body." A murder trial is central to the plot. I tried cases for 30 years. The defendant is represented by a lazy incompetent passed off as something better. The prosecutor ignores, apparently intentionally, obvious evidence that should materially affect his investigation. If this author has ever been in courtroom, I hope it was only as a spectator.
A brilliant author. A superb narrator. What more can one ask? McKinty is as good a story teller as Nelson DeMille, at least as good with dialogue and characters as Robert Parker (bless his soul) was. His metaphors range from classical literature and mythology to popular culture. Listen a second time to to catch more of them. Doyle is a master. Multiple Irish, English, Scottish, American accents are no problem. Even a brief operatic solo in Italian is pleasant and leaves me wanting more.
The idea for the story is good. Technically, the writing is good. But so much of the book is one depressing scene after another that I cannot call the overall experience enjoyable. The characters are absolutely humorless. Virtually all the conversations and introspections are maudlin. Scott Brick is generally a fine narrator, but because of what he was saying I grew tired of his voice. In print I would have skipped large chunks of the book.
Fine writing with humor in the style of Tom Sharpe. Maybe not as good as he, but who is? There's a Shakespearean type finale when all the characters gather on stage to resolve questions and reveal surprises. There's even an ending soliloquy by Zen on the mysteries of life. My only criticism is that the main character is a bit more of a bumbler than I like in crime novels.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.