Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body.

I like this opening line. It introduces a charged situation and character that raises questions and hints at conflict. Unfortunately, the next line is:

One Saturday in March, fog crept through the river valley and froze overnight. 

Weather and setting to establish mood is rather cliche nowadays. It's eye rolling because while we are interested in getting an explanation for line one, we are interrupted with the: it was a dark and stormy night technique. With such a line, I expect Lon Chaney, Jr. or Bela Lugosi to crawl out of the river valley fog. That is to say, it's a little too much of the 1930's melodrama flavor. The weather description/moody setting doesn't stop with that line either. It goes on in the same first paragraph with ghostly landscapes, dead trees, thick crusts of hoarfrost, and black birds before someone finally says: It was eerie.

Then we get some back story of Cheri. It's moody and Poe-like, which is attractive, but the forward narrative, the essence of a story, is stalling.

First thing said:

"You behaving yourself while the gravedigger's gone?"

A nice first thing said. Unusual and revealing a little character.

The title is nice, but I already know what a liter of blood weighs. My point being that the title is leaking a little too much artsy-fartsy sediment, I mean sentiment, for my taste.

If it weren't for the weather and back story so soon, this would have scored four stars easily.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Rudy Globird

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