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My nails remain unbitten
on 15 August 2012
I was disappointed in this book, probably because I thought it was a thriller: it is not. As far as I can tell, it seems to be about two ex-coppers lying in a hide somewhere in Iraq (or is it Iran - I rather lost track) for days on end, just getting on each other's wick. It might have had an exciting end, I don't know, I didn't get that far.
I gave up because the idiosyncratic style of writing just wore me out. A long time ago I was taught that ending sentences with ellipses (...) is sloppy writing. After much over-use it irritated me ... In many places, the writing is quasi-poetic, the narrator distant, the effect fuzzy - and then you realise that something might have happened, so you read it again. Then there are scenes where you haven't a clue which characters are involved, because you only get the personal pronoun (which can refer variously to more than one character in the scene) - so you read it again. And then there is a massive amount of back-story or excess detail, usually crowbarred early on in a scene - so you forget what the scene was really about; you read it again. (Good value for money: you are forced to read the book twice!)
Many scenes are written in the pluperfect: `Foxy had done this, Badger had done that', or in the subjunctive: `this would happen, that might happen'. No immediacy or pace there, then. And the characters were droll, unconvincing stereotypes. The Major, for example, waxed lyrical in his briefing until Gibbons told him to shut up and sit down (even the author seems to have realised he was droning on!). I'm sure that officers have verbosity beaten out of them before they leave Sandhurst.
By the time I gave up on it, I felt I was watching everything - the huge cast of characters, the events - from the wrong end of an out-of-focus telescope. The story could have been told, far more effectively, in half the number of words.
If you like semi-literary books in a thriller-type setting, you might enjoy this (and many people seem to have done). If you like good access to interesting characters and their story, then this is probably not for you.
PS - the author missed a real trick: Naghmeh should have been sent to the Great Satan for treatment!