Friday, 31 January 2014

The Guilty Ones by Lisa Ballantyne

A little boy was found dead in the Barnard Park [Heading to Chapter 1]

The air smelled of gunpowder when Daniel emerged from the Angel tube stop and headed for Islington Police Station.

With the allusion to guns, (without the mention of an actual gun we can't give this the gun cliché badge) this line foreshadows conflict and leaves the reader forced to ask a question. On its own this line gets a pass. It also introduces a character though fails to introduce characterization - just a name - Daniel, which is not much better than a pronoun, though I prefer a name to the clichéd melodramatic pronoun. Next sentence:

It was midsummer and airless, the moon slipping unseen into a bright, troubled sky.

Who cares about what the sky looks like? Does it matter? Will plot and characterization be meaningless without the weather plug? I mean, really, what's with the rush to insert weather into a novel? Why's it so overused in publishing today? What is it with writers, thinking that the reader just has to know about the weather before conflict and character is established? I don't mean to pick on this writer in particular, zillions are doing it and as one can see to the right of this blog in the labels section, the weather cliché opening is by far the most overused cliché on the market today. I blame pop culture; we've been brainwashed into talking about, reading about, and writing about the weather. Maybe because of all the talk about global warming, writers think weather is interesting? Even Edward Bulwer-Lytton would be annoyed by now.

And the last line of paragraph 1:

The day was gravid, ready to burst.

This made me laugh. Gravid with what? We never find out. It's just gravid, so there. However, it is mentioned later that it's just started to rain, so the sky and clouds can certainly be described as gravid. Therefore, I assume the author means the heavens are gravid - not the day, unless one thinks that the day is gravid with weather and the day will burst with rain, which technically doesn't make much sense - how can a unit of time burst with rain? I guess that's a liberty one can take with figurative language. I still think it's funny - a moment in which highbrow vocabulary triumphs over logic, reason and basic story-telling common sense.

Paragraph 2 informs us that the character is running through the rain, like in some of those cheesy MTV music videos from the 90's. This falls under the walking opening cliché. I'm all the more annoyed because now I can't get that Chariots of Fire theme out of my head.

First thing said:

"You got here quickly."

Anyway, a scene eventually gets going on page 2 that suggests a plot and conflict and the word murder is mentioned at the top of page 3, which is good, but the immediate beginning sinks this one.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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