Today, I’m reading BLACK DIAMOND DEATH by Cheryl Bradshaw, featuring Sloane Monroe, a female PI in the town of Somewhere, Utah.
It started out pretty well, really. I was even playing around with the idea of giving it three stars. But then it all went downhill (pun partially intended). First, the idea of a woman being murdered on the slopes of this new ski resort is a joke to everyone involved. The police laugh our hardboiled female detective right out the door, and her client (the victim’s sister) is ridiculed. But the author goes to great lengths to tell us that the victim is a world class skier, the tree she supposedly crashes into is unmarked, and she doesn’t even have the kinds of injuries that crashing into a tree would give you. It might be petty, but this is the whole premise of the book, and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Those kinds of plots really pull me out of the story.
Aside aside from some comma issues (think, “it’s nice to see you again Mr. Surname” over and over again... my brain just halts when I see that, but again, petty) the writing is fine. Then, somehow and for no good reason, everything goes to crap. Maybe it just took me too long to notice it, but the author often chooses the longest word where a shorter one would be better. That’s a rule of writing that I particularly like... use the shortest word possible to say what you mean, or else you get lines like, “after some time my stomach indicated its discontent” and “he picked his drink back up and ingurgitated all of it”. Sloppy writing. Say what you mean, say what you’re trying to say. Don’t beat around the bush. The characters are one dimensional, and the current suspect (the cheating, lying, manipulative rapist ex-fiance) hasn’t shown one iota of positive attribute. Sloane, the detective who doesn’t like to tell people why she’s asking them questions, and her client actually have a nice, bonding laugh over Sloane breaking his fingers. I don’t know the law too well myself, but I just spent way too much time looking it up so I don’t have to be worried about calling this book bullshit. It seems like most of the detective work has so far been illegal... too bad Sloane’s police detective boyfriend doesn’t set her right about trespassing, defamation of character and wiretapping.
Hours later, I finally finish it. The writing improved again, inexplicably, and I got to pay more attention to the story. I almost quit once, and that’s when Sloane’s pink suited feminine friend tags along to speak to a suspect (or whatever she is at this point... a loose end?). I almost put the book down right then and there thinking about whatever kind of self respecting professional would let a friend come along just because they wanted to. I admire even the barest attempt at realism, and this just kicked me right out of my suspension of disbelief. I persevered, though. The friend gets lost pretty quickly, but we’re not out of danger yet. The first suspect is killed (spoilers!), no surprises there, and we get to see our main character derisively mocking the police for even daring to think that they could keep her away from the evidence, despite her prints being all over the murder site. I couldn’t quite believe the audacity, and lost a lot of respect for her. These men are the only ones in the book doing their jobs.
Then we find the killer, yadda yadda yadda, we’re left with a cliffhanger, and the book is abruptly over. Like, really abruptly. I turned the page trying to find the epilogue and there wasn’t one. So I went back and checked again. I toyed with the idea of starting the next book for approximately zero seconds.
Final thoughts? No really likeable characters, and all of them flat and predictable. I knew who the killer was because she was one of about two suspects, and the other one had the good fortune to die off. The writing... shifted. It was really strange. The beginning and ending were decent, no really big gaffes or goofs, but the middle was just chock full of them. The examples I gave above were only a few of the many I saw that made me smile or even laugh out loud, and I feel like I shouldn’t be finding those things in a book that was the top of Amazon’s charts last week. It was fine, sure. But it was a little worse than mediocre... it was boring.
Next week, it looks like this weeks' winner is THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, by Karleen Koen. Huh... this one actually sounds interesting. See you next Sunday!