This is kind of an unusual topic for me because, frankly, I like almost everything I read. It’s not that I have no standards, and naturally I like some books more than others. But there are different books that are right for different moods. Feeling emotionally fragile?
Put down that Thomas Harris and pick up some Donna Andrews. Easily distracted? Maybe not the best time to start an Agatha Christie. Some authors you read for plot, or the great characters, because their books are thrilling, or soothing, or whatever it is you find you need at this particular moment. There’s room out there for a huge variety of books appealing to different tastes.
But boy this book was a stinker.
The object of my scorn is Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, the ninth book in their series featuring FBI Special Agent Pendergast. I haven’t read any of the previous books, but I don’t think that was my problem.
The book begins with a brutal attack on a couple who are at home celebrating their first anniversary. A man enters the apartment, stabs the husband to death, then wounds the wife badly enough that she has to be hospitalized. A pretty attention-grabbing beginning, but the eye rolling began soon after. Because after witnessing this horrific act, after losing her practically newlywed husband, after winding up in the hospital from her own injuries, what does this woman do? She goes to work. Straight from the hospital, no less. If she were an ER doctor, I could maybe accept that. But no, she goes to her job at the museum and . . . sorts potsherds.
Really? What alternate universe have I landed in? Seriously, I can accept zombies and voodoo and monsters in the cellar of the old abandoned scary asylum, but don’t be ridiculous. Who would go to work in those circumstances? And to make matters worse, when a later scene takes place at the man’s funeral, all I could think was, well who in bloody blue blazes planned this? Because it sure wasn’t his wife!
Maybe this sounds overly critical, but to me the authors destroyed their credibility early on by having a person react to a situation in a totally unbelievable manner. This only made me pickier than I usually am, and the cardboard characters, unlikely events, and generally lackluster writing were glaring. Add in the Scooby-Doo ending (movie producers know all about making masks, right? Right?) and I could see my brain from all the eye rolling the book induced.
There were problems in the editing, too. I’ll admit that there are only so many words to describe how a zombie walks, and while the word “shambling” may be the perfect word for your purposes, you’ve really got to mix it up a bit. It’s a word that you don’t see very often, and shouldn’t be used multiple times in the same paragraph. Another example of bad editing is this sentence: “The other man . . . was gowned in a fantastically decorated ceremonial gown.” Strip that down, and you have a guy gowned in a gown. That’s so bad, I can only imagine the Preston or Childs going, “He was gowned in a . . . um, he was something something in a gown . . . oh, hell, I’ll just put in ‘gown’ for now and change it later.”
Maybe I simply wasn’t part of the correct demographic for this book. Perhaps there is a core audience who loves tough cops and unemotional women, who enjoys the humiliation of protesters and the vilification of Hollywood types, and thinks Scooby-Doo is underrated. But bad writing and shaky plots? I don’t think there’s a fan club for those.
Image courtesy of Matthew Stewart
Cindy Harkness is a librarian, an advocate for rescued animals, and hopelessly addicted to true crime TV shows.