Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Black List by Brad Thor


On August 17, 1975, Senator Frank Church appeared on NBC's Meet the Press to discuss the results of his full-scale investigation into America's burgeoning intelligence capabilities.

A preface means history, back story and/or the inspiration behind the story - in short a black tie intro, with information that could easily be inserted elsewhere once I'm ready to care. However, because it is supposed to be interesting the author might be thinking that this could be a nice little true-to-life hook, even if it is out of context and out of chronological order with the actual forward narrative. Too bad. Little do some authors know that a preface hook does not keep a reader reading. It's preamble. It's like someone coming out before the movie begins and starting to blabber. How many people actually enjoy that? Not many, so authors will just have to hook all over again. Most don't bother - thinking that aspect of their work is done.

What's worse, this preface is a little on the didactic side. You can skip it. Trust me - you can skip it.


Pentagon City
Present Day

There were a lot of places in which Caroline Romero could envision being murdered - a dark alley, a parking lot, even a nature preserve -  but a shopping mall in broad daylight wasn't one of them.

God, when is this book going to start? What's with the introductions? Anyway, this prologue indulges in several pages just to kill a prologie. At least that's what we assume. The writer leaves it hanging. Cliffhanger endings don't hook, just like being vague does not hook. But this isn't really a cliffhanger ending, it's a slithering-into-the-fog ending, whisked away by an imploding plot.

Chapter 1:

Rural Virginia
Forty-eight hours later

Kurt Schroeder glanced down at his iPhone while his Nissan subcompact crunched across the estate's pebbled motor court.

Two clichés for the price of one. A phone and a car. Except in this case there is no signal, so the phone call opening is impotent. But the intent is clear. If there's a phone, it gets the phone call opening cliché award. The phone doesn't have to be ringing or buzzing or even being held in a hand, it just needs to be there, teasing the reader: "Oh, my God, there's a phone!"

Listing the setting particulars as subheadings to a chapter rather than showing it is (in my book of writing rules) a sign of bad or lazy writing - take your pick. The rest of the pages ponder the mysteries of a novel opening without the luxury of having a phone signal before launching into back story. So the forward narrative of a man in a vehicle with a useless phone (oh, the horror) stops and we back up before anything interesting happens. How can that be anything but a total and utter fail?

First thing said:

"Where have you been?"

The two main purposes of dialogue (especially in the beginning) are either to move the plot forward or to reveal character. This does neither.

I'm tempted to say something witty about the title for my review, but I've got better things to do.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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