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No more Rick Mofina for me
on 2 January 2010
I bought this book because it was recommended to me. I didn't like it. That doesn't mean it's rubbish; it means only that I didn't like it.
First, the good things (or you may see them as good things).
1) It's fast paced. Yes, it really is.
2) The dialogue is mostly believable.
3) The newsroom background is accurate (as one might expect).
4) The writer does a good job of getting across the spooky nature of a lot of Washington State.
Those are the good things. Now the negative ones.
1) It's plotting by numbers. The writer has a guide saying, "Action here"; "Crisis here"; "Spike here"; and so on and he follows it. Too faithfully. There are too many crises and they come too close together. That's the downside of fast pacing.
2) Characterisation is dire. There isn't a real person in the book. To call them all cardboard cutouts insults cardboard cutouts.
3) The writer doesn't trust his audience. Here's an extract from only the third page: "But this route made her uneasy. She saw fewer towns, buildings, houses, lights. She pressed on, unable to see the streams, the forested foothills, or the slopes of the Cascade Mountains. But they were out there. Veiled by darkness." That's it, Mister Author. You've conveyed the picture. We understand. Stop now. But he doesn't -- because he doesn't trust us to see the picture he's painted for us. He goes on: "As she drove into it, Karen felt alone. Vulnerable." Oh, really? Gosh, I never would have guessed that from what you'd already said.
4) I hate unlikely coincidences that help solve the mystery. They are sloppy writing. Bad plotting. Obvious crutches for the unimaginative. (Dear me, I'm writing like Rick Mofina now). And there is one in this book -- the bookmark that -- with stunning improbability -- sits in an old wall. Not only that, but the Police have already carried out a painstaking fingertip search but failed to find it. And then, guess what? Yes, that's right; our trusty cub reporter sees it and the whole mess of knotted strings begins to unravel before our eyes.
I won't go on. You either like this sort of nonsense or you don't. Personally, I don't. But it's easy enough to read -- I'll grant that. Reader participation is zero. All the bloody, stomach-turning mayhem doesn't once engage the emotions. It's like walking through the Valley of Death, charging the Russian guns with the Light Brigade and thinking, "Gosh it's noisy around here. I wonder where all the smoke is coming from?"