The offender is a book called Tainted Dish. It’s the third in the Charles Stone series of travel mysteries by Charles L. Fields, and I got to tell you—I don’t want to rip it to shreds. I really don’t. The author is a gentlemen if there ever was one. When I told him I didn’t like the book, he asked me for a more detailed critique and then thanked me for my input. He was humble and courteous and everything that an author should be. A joy to talk to, really. Some of those folks on Poketfulofbooks’ Authors Behaving Badly series could learn a thing or two from him. But like it says on the review policy, if I read it, that means I got to review it. And rules is rules, right?
Right. So let’s get to it.
Charles Stone is in his fifties, a widower, and part owner of the
security firm McGraw Stone and Tucker. His previous adventures have taken him
around the globe, investigating, swashbuckling, and generally solving peoples’
problems where they intersect with international politics and intrigue. His
third adventure, however, has him sticking closer to home. A friend of the family (also recently
windowed, as it so happens) named Janice Johnson has inherited her late
husband’s half of a very successful satellite dish development and
manufacturing company. The other half of
the company is owned by Sam Torkilson, and he’s pissed at having to share it. To make matters worse, the plant manager has
been found impaled and gruesomely murdered on one of their prototype satellite
dishes, so Janice calls in Chuck and company to sort things out. Boston
Sounds like the kind of thing that would be right up my alley, doesn’t it? Sure, that’s why I requested a review copy in the first place. But there were problems with it I just couldn’t overlook. The dialogue felt stilted and unrealistic in parts, and did nothing to lend any depth to the characters. The villain seemed like a caricature with dialogue and reactions that felt grossly exaggerated—and don’t get me started on the plot holes. In addition, every other page it seemed like the author was going on about another Boston landmark, which is interesting and all (and maybe why the book was called a “travel mystery”), but all it did was slow down the narrative with tangential information and turned it into more of a travel guide more than a mystery. The book was rife with grammatical and typographical errors, too. But what really got my goat, the thing that made put down the book and say, “I just can’t do this anymore,” was the POV.
Of course there are exceptions. Epistolary novels? Sure. Round-robin story telling stuff like The Canterbury Tales? Awesome. But a contemporary mystery/thriller with no narrative gimmick that just mashes up 1st person and 3rd person POVs for no good reason? That I can’t abide by. That’s just my opinion, of course. Plenty of authors have defied Wilhoit’s Rules of Narrative Structure (I’m trademarking that when I nail down some other tenets, by the way) and met with plenty of success and literary acclaim. But screw ‘em, I don’t care. Alternating first and third person just shouldn’t be done. And when it happens in the middle of a chapter sans-scene break, I’m out. Cash in my chips, thank you very much for letting me play, but I must be on my way.
I’ve reviewed some real stinkers on here before, but none that I simply couldn’t finish. Maybe the difference between this one and the rest comes down to my own prejudices about POV and narrative structure. Maybe, but I’m not so sure. So take what I said with a grain of salt. Hell, read it yourself and formulate your own opinion. If someone wants the book, I’ll even mail it to them free of charge (
only, though). You just say the word. It’ll be one less book for me to keep track
of, and maybe someone else will get some enjoyment out of it. U.S.