Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sandrine's Case by Thomas H. Cook

Opening Argument:
The Prosecution

Lost hope conceals a rapier in its gown, Sandrine wrote in the margins of her copy of Julius Caesar.

At first glance this feels like what a first sentence should be: big, lofty, all embracing,  - just plain old epic. It reveals character and hints at conflict; yet, there is a hint of pretentious. The rest of the paragraph is in the same annoying didactic lofty voice.

Things like:

Life should fill our ears with warning...
...she'd penned this little piece...but it falls silent at our infant cry.

Whatever the hell that means. This opening reeks of artsy-fartsy melodramatic sentimentality.

It's hard at first to figure out what's going on. The narrator (secret literary-device Agent Pronoun) is on trial, so in this beginning the only mystery the reader cares about is who Sandrine is - that, and in general what the hell is going on. We're dropped right into the theoretical center of the middle of an elusive plot/life story without much information to construct our imaginations with. Unfortunately, the only thing that can save this is back story and after a slightly satisfying BS dump, by page 2 the plot starts to flex its muscles after breaking away from the sentimental artsy-fartsy sentence lining.

The focus in this beginning is words and general philosophical ideas you can have delivered to your e-mail box by signing up for any number of lofty newsletters. Ultimately, it feels overwritten. I need more than titillating vocabulary and philosophy to pull me into a mystery novel.

Nevertheless, the opening clause grows on one. The emotions of regret manage to make themselves known. Mercifully, by page 2 the writer comes down off his verbose high and tells the story as it should be told, in simple terms - things happening to people.

First thing said:

"You're the proverbial ham sandwich any pubic prosecutor can indict, Sam."

What proverbial ham sandwich would that be? A sam-ham?

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht

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