Top critical review
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All that glitters ......
on 16 March 2009
I bought this book on the strength of the fantastic reviews it got on Amazon. Yes, I know you have to be wary of reviews (one man's meat, and all that ...), but this had eighteen, sixteen of which awarded 5-stars and the other two 4-stars; how could I go wrong? Quite easily, it would appear, this book is just awful. Call me an old cynic, but is it just coincidence that at least eleven of the reviewers live in the West Country, as does Mr Hall?
I read a lot of crime novels (William Lashner is my current favourite), and Simon Hall is not a 4-star writer, let alone a 5-star one: his plotting is simplistic, his storyline is ludicrous, and his characterisation is lamentable. Our dashing hero, Dan the TV journalist, has an unfeasible relationship with Adam, the Detective Inspector in charge of serious crimes in these parts. Dan is constantly updated on the current state of enquiries by Adam, and is even invited to sit in on police meetings, interrogations and crime scenes. Strangely, he doesn't take much advantage of this unprecedented access to proceedings; rather he runs around from one outside broadcast to another, constantly looking at his watch and telling us it's such and such a time, but really it's about ten minutes later because his watch runs slow. At first you wonder if this fact is going to be ingeniously interwoven into the plot as a clever denouement device. Eventually you realise this is just one of his little `quirks' --- he wears a cheap watch!
Dan is a tedious character who's a bit too pleased with himself, but Adam scales the rock-face of blandness to reach a peak of vapidness rarely achieved in literature. Don't expect him to use his deductive powers to go chasing after leads; things just fall into place around him, while poor Adam mopes about worrying about his relationship with his wife, who we barely get to know. This is another aspect of Simon Hall's characterisation --- he doesn't do women: Dan's love-interest is Claire, a beautiful young policewoman, and she gets about half a dozen lines and two short phone texts in the whole book.
Misleading as the reviews for this book are, they did at least get two things right: it's described as a page-turner and I've rarely turned pages faster to get to the end of a stupid book. It's also praised for the surprise ending --- I began to suspect how the pieces might fall together, well before the end, but I just couldn't believe we were really heading for such a crass finale. Big surprise .... we were.
Please don't fall for the rapturous acclaim surrounding this book. It really is bad.