Okay, so the protagonist is a young girl living in the Ozarks. Long ago, her mother disappeared without explanation. Don't buy the hype -- while mildly entertaining, the quality of the writing, the sophistication of the plot (including way too much "young romance"), and the depth of character development compare poorly with Woodrell and Flynn. Not a BAD read, but setting up the listener to expect another Winter's Bone or Gone Girl didn't do McHugh any favors.
How unfortunate that the author listened to her friends and tried to write a novel around what is, undoubtedly, most interesting research into archeological crime.
How unfortunate that the author padded this research with a mind-numbing series of improbable "love stories" -- the women invariably of jaw-dropping beauty, meeting one-dimensional men in a series of silly "pure-chance" episodes designed, apparently, to show something of a good or evil nature.
How unfortunate that the author relies on "tell" instead of "show" -- entire plot-blocks laid out when one character explains years of back-story to someone else (delivered in British-accented monotone).
How unfortunate that the author never met a cliche she wouldn't use, sometimes more than once. I was so distracted by high school purple prose that I'd start cliche-counting and lose the story thread. How unfortunate that I didn't care enough to rewind.
And how unfortunate that the narrator, who has received positive reviews in other works, reels out these telenovela tales in flat monotone, often creating confusion about which character was speaking. Again, a distraction--I couldn't help recreating dialog in my head, hoping a more lively and realistic rendition would salvage the writing.
Perhaps all this perceived misfortune flows from my latest two "listens" -- "Analysis & Critique: How to Engage and Write About Anything" and the mind-shattering storytelling of "The Things They Carried."
Full Disclosure: I did not finish this book. Four hours in, I surrendered to the realization that my interest in its archeological core was overwhelmed by irritation. I'm putting it back on Audible's shelf.
Just an okay piece -- a VERY LONG piece, to be sure -- of genre fiction. I guess from all the reviews and the "must reads", I'd expected something a bit more literary, and to be surprised by an unsuspected talent in Ken Follett. While the book was entertaining enough for doing tasks around the house and driving under conditions that required attention to the road, it surely didn't leave me as breathless as the reviews had led me to expect. Never found any wonder in it, just a story that moved along more or less as expected and wrapped itself up into a tidy conclusion, full of bad guys who were Really Bad and good guys and gals who were Really Good But Somehow Flawed, nobody particularly complicated or, alas, interesting on their own. Still -- it kept me from being bored as I stacked firewood and reorganized my kitchen cupboards.
Have to agree with others who found the overlaid soundtrack on this particular brainwave audio very disturbing and, at times, creepy -- music punctuated at times with sucking marshy sounds and what, to me, sounded like terrifying prehistoric prey-birds. There are all kinds of brainwave "entrainment" recordings on The Internets, some overlaid with music, some with nature sounds. For any of these to work (and, for me, they appear to), the listener must be able to relax into the audio. I'm a Neil Gaiman fan and all, but a brainwave session shouldn't leave the listener jumping out of their skin and wanting to dive for cover. Sorry I wasted the $$$.
Oh, let's say a coherent story not dependent on ever-escalating scenes of gruesome violence against women, for starters. I'd sort of expected more Machiavelli -- you know, The Prince -- and less over-the-top genre murder.
The plot is ho-hum, the characters unbelievable and shallow.
Let me count the ways --
Female was unintelligible and the male's various voices turned me off to key characters, Da Vinci, especially. What a pity.
But peeve-above-all is this -- presumably these characters are narrating in their own languages, i.e., "Damieta" is reading from her own letter. So WHY these clownish and unintelligible Italian accents?
I'm with Steven -- never again buy a book that hasn't yet been reviewed. Lesson learned.
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