Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review - In the Blood

I read this book yesterday but didn't quite get around to reviewing it until today.  Don't drink and read, kids! So this is the review of In the Blood, by Steve Robinson.  I've never read a genealogical crime mystery before... didn't even know they existed.  But I guess geneology is a big thing?  Big enough to get this book on the bestseller list, that's for sure.

First things first.  I don't know anything about the genre but it seemed like a fairly straight forward thriller with the mystery coming solely from the fact that the characters had some secrets dating back hundreds of years.  The hero of the book was a geneologist, Mister Jefferson Tayte, who seemed a rather lackluster hero for this kind of story but also a very honest one, which both won and lost points, breaking this book pretty even on that front.  The author is honest about the protagonist's less than stellar appearance, his fears, his unstoppable urges in eating every sweet thing that enters the pages of the book.  It's this honesty, however, that makes his later transformation into an action hero so unlikely.

The writing was fine but not stellar, par for the course for a commercial novel.  Nothing really stood out about the writing or the settings except a couple of typos in the latter third of the book.  A wrong 'their' and unclosed quotation marks really make it seem like a less than polished, even unfinished work.  Even one typo in a published book makes me feel like there was some sloppy editing going on.  It might be unfair to judge so critically but I do expect published works to be as finely crafted and impeccably polished as possible.

The characters were, after the fact, dull and not very interesting.  JT himself seemed, more than anything, to be a shallow and ungrateful person who was not as good as his job as the author was trying to portray.  At one point a colleague mentions a newspaper article about the family they're trying to find and he knows nothing about it, only to easily find it later on what he claims is his favorite website for antiquated newspaper headlines.  If he really was as thorough as he is claimed to be, shouldn't he have already found it?  He doesn't appreciate help when it is given even if it comes from a source that annoys him (and that annoyance is based off of nothing more than the other being just as good at the job as he is) and feels very little of either guilt or... or anything, really, when that annoyance is later killed.

The author introduces a love interest who compares JT's eyes to the eyes of a former pet and their attachment strikes me as either the author feeling the need to give the hero some kind of happily ever after or just further proof that JT isn't the kind of person who should be the hero anyway.  That reminds me of the first thing I didn't like about the book, and that's when Tayte falls asleep for most of an eight hour flight, including the landing, when he supposedly has this incredible fear of flying.  I don't mind flying and I still can't sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time, especially while flying over oceans.  

The thriller parts of the book seemed forced and every interation with the police left me wanting to scream at the book for not locking Tatye up instead of letting him continue to interfere.  There are explosions, guns, a woman being chained to a rock and waiting for the tide to come in... all of the makings of a cheesy adventure story, and with the geneology having taken a far second place at this point, it becomes such.  My favorite line in the book is, "I'm a geneologist, for Christ's sakes!" and that's only because it was so silly that it made me laugh out loud.  Because when push comes to shove it seems that everyone in the book- the police and the hero included - forgets that Tayte is an unqualified fat American and falls over themselves getting out of the way so that he can be the hero and save the day.  It's not just silly, it's stupid.

And that seems to be my final thought.  It's not just silly, it's stupid.  The motivations are questionable to the point of breaking my tenuous hold on my suspension of disbelief.  The mystery would be a good one if there wasn't so much crap between each clue... to be quite honest by the time the next piece of the puzzle is found I had completely forgotten to care about the last one.  Too long for the little tension employed.

So.  It looks like the next book on my list to be reviewed on Sunday is Married by Mistake, by Abby Gaines.  I look forward to reading the next piece of garbage being passed off as commercial literature these days, and I hope you do too.  'Til Sunday!

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