Thursday, 5 June 2014

Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka

The Prophet set his nine-millimeter on the kitchen counter.

This is the first sentence and first paragraph. The opening line gets its own paragraph, one presumes, because the author thinks that this sentence is special, when in essence it is nothing more than a nickname putting down a gun in the kitchen. I mean just because there is a gun we are supposed to be hooked? The set up is so Hollywood (sorry Hollywood if I've offended thee) with a total lack of creativity that the only thing interesting about this line is that it can actually make someone read on. Perhaps opening with a gun is something that hooks patriotic Americans and Russians but for the rest of us, it's like, whatever.

He leaned forward bleeding hard into the sink, the only  sound a rhythmic tap of blood on stainless steel.

This second sentence and beginning of the second paragraph is somewhat incongruous. Mr. Prophet is bleeding hard in the first clause, but then only dripping in the second clause. When I first read bleeding hard I pictured the guy gushing blood. But drip, drip, drip is in no way as dramatic. Even if the droplets are dime size. But then again, what do I know, I've never been shot in the head. Yep, the Prophet is suffering from a head wound, yet can still turn on the tap and talk. Without being clear about the nature of the head wound, it's actually funny. Well, I laughed.

First thing said:

"My disciples, I knew you'd find me here."

Dialogue on the first page is nice. In fact, a scene like this on the first page encourages a reader to be pulled in. Creepy disciples watching the prophet make this scene rather weird in a pleasant way and one can't help but feel a sense of foreboding.

Then the Prophet takes off his shirt so the author can describe his chest and body, as if nothing in the story will make sense if I don't know this on page 2. Though to be fair, except for the lean and dark torso, a little hint of back story is insinuated by mentioning the scars and tattoos. Suddenly the Prophet looks like Danny Trejo.

Then many paragraphs start beginning like this:

The Prophet splashed cold water on his face...
The Prophet peeled loose his tattered sweatshirt...
The Prophet turned....
The Prophet shook his head.
The Prophet leaned back...
The Prophet wiped a runnel of blood from his face.
The Prophet sipped beer.
The Prophet didn't answer. 
The Prophet lowered his eyes.

All in the first three pages. There are more The Prophet does.... sentences on the final two pages of chapter 1, as well. The point I'm trying to make?  Monotonous sentence structure stands out.

I will give this a 50/50 pass because in all fairness the scene manages to hold my attention, despite the writing. However, I do start to lose interest when we get into characters talking about things the reader can't know anything about, dropping hints and insinuations designed to impel us to read on but are in point of fact, a little confusing.

Some say that a good story is 80% idea and 20% technique. But in this case only 5% technique is employed putting the story idea, caked in cliche, at a disadvantage. To be honest, I'm starting to have a hard time telling these kinds of novels apart. You know, the crime novels and thrillers that are printed out in the millions by the likes of Cussler, Baldacci, Dan Brown, Ted Bell, Lee Child, Robert Harris, Brad Meltzer and hundreds of others, many much worse. Am I the only one who thinks they could all have been written by one person? Or perhaps, graduates from one cliched school of writing?

On the cover there is a quote from Clive Cussler: A Masterwork...An eye-opening and page-turning read without parallel. Except this reads like every other book of it's genre. Personally, I'd sue someone if Clive Cussler's name was on the cover of my book, plugging it. Most readers can make up their own minds without reading graffiti on a cover.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Rudy Globird

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