I have just given up on a book. I’m not going to tell you what it was because it was provided to me by the publisher and my review policy says I will only write reviews of books provided this way if I finish them.
But every book I read (or half read) teaches me something about myself and this one made me see really clearly what it is that I like (and don’t like) in my thrillers.
The book is marketed as a political thriller. I agree that it is political but found it about as thrilling as making the bed. Because this was a review book I put a little more thought into what I specifically didn’t enjoy in comparison to other similar books.
If a thriller has
- A twisty, turn-y plot that clips along at a decent pace and offers a pay-off for my investment of time (e.g. family reunited/world saved/justice done)
- At least a couple of characters who, if not exactly three-dimensional, provide enough humanity that I care whether they live (or die), triumph over adversity (or fail) or right a wrong (or don’t).
it will probably get a rating of 3 (= decent/solid entertaining read) on my personal scale. There is a chance of extra points for humour, above-average excitement levels, deeper than usual exploration of a theme that interests me, a male character who doesn’t view every woman he meets as a potential bed mate or a female character who doesn’t look like a supermodel yet, miraculously, proves to have some value to the world anyway. Keeping the car chases short and detailed descriptions of weaponry to a minimum also scores bonus points.
The plot wasn’t very twisty or turn-y. I don’t want to give away stuff that might identify the book but it essentially was a tale in which a woman was brutally killed and lots of people who bore partial responsibility for the event spent the next 180+ pages trying to assuage their guilt and/or shift the blame by having phone conversations where they denied being responsible to anyone who would listen. Yawn.
What the story didn’t offer me was an incentive to keep reading. There was no chance of a pay-off. The world was not going to be saved from total annihilation. No innocent person was to be kept from the electric chair. No child or puppy dog was to be plucked from the jaws of death. No heinous political scandal was going to be uncovered so that justice and goodness would reign, even for a moment. No ancient code would be broken to reveal a monumental human truth. At best the book offered the opportunity to learn which one of several unlikable, self-absorbed cretins would end up being blamed for the death that started the whole sorry mess.
And then there were the characters.
I could not have cared less about them. The women I can recall were stereotyped male fantasies: we had a victim; a lesbian and a drop-dead gorgeous gal who made all grown men drool. There was also a shrewish, unscrupulous harridan of a journalist but she was over 30 and therefore irrelevant (no prizes for guessing she got killed off before the half-way point). The men were corrupt, stupid and full of vengeance or a somewhat ironic outrage. But not one of them was engaging enough to engender a flicker of interest in seeing if they would live let alone triumph. Nor were any of them evil enough for me to want to watch them squirm and die a painful death. I literally could not possibly have cared less about the characters in a book than I did about the characters in this one.
Happily, this is a pretty rare experience for me. I have a weekend stretching ahead and about 150 unread books to choose from. Joy.