It was published in 1996, so there's a lot of things I would nitpick on, but can't.
However, the author has his protagonist calling up the agent for tIt was published in 1996, so there's a lot of things I would nitpick on, but can't.
However, the author has his protagonist calling up the agent for the book, A Morning for Flamingos, and getting a contract as a measure of success. Dude, it wasn't the agent that made Burke that good, and you only WISH you wrote as well as he does.
We'll just sum this up with this thought: if I'm reading your thriller, and you end a sentence with, "and then we made love," I am going to laugh at you. With snorts.
It got interesting, actually decently plotted for about twelve pages near the end, and then he veered off into crazy twist territory and did a lot of silly handwaving to explain it away.
What's good about this book: I learned about Guatemala and The Disappeared. I learned about many forensic techniques.
What's bad: She's still doing itWhat's good about this book: I learned about Guatemala and The Disappeared. I learned about many forensic techniques.
What's bad: She's still doing it. She's still using withheld information to generate suspense. I hate that. At least she's giving it up on the next page, but it's still annoying.
And Tempe Brennan is an educated version of Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie with advanced degrees. Sookie desired by everyone, even when she crawls out of a septic tank in full hazmat gear. Sookie running off to save Bill and Eric and then either surviving by sheer luck or the whim of the baddie. Or having to be rescued by Eric, never Bill, because Bill is a pissy little bitch who has to run away to cry in the corner every few minutes.
I'm sorry, never mind, wrong book. Except Tempe is developing into Sookie's older, more erudite cousin.
Also, her banter-fu is kind of weak this time. ...more
What I love about Reichs: she gives amazingly concrete detail. And it's accurate detail, because she knows her stuff. I also love the way she groundsWhat I love about Reichs: she gives amazingly concrete detail. And it's accurate detail, because she knows her stuff. I also love the way she grounds a scene in not just the weather, but the climate, the change of seasons. She gives the emotional resonance through her description and doesn't linger too long in it.
What I don't like: She has two really bad habits. One is "as you know, Bob" dialogue. When a colleague explains things to Tempe that she ought to know, it's annoying. Yes, she's an anthropologist, so blood spatter isn't going to be her specialty, but explaining it to her as though she were a child so that WE understand it is not okay. This book was published the same year of the debut of CSI. We can handle a Cliff Notes on spatter, and starting from the shape of a drop as it falls is insulting. And it makes Tempe look dumb.
Her other awful habit is withholding in order to create a false sense of suspense. That is a horrible habit and I really hope someone has broken her of it. It breaks faith with the reader, especially when she doesn't reveal what she's withheld for several chapters.
And is there anyone in Tempe's family who isn't a smug, condescending idiot? For that matter, is there anyone in Tempe's life who ISN'T annoying? Claudel is a douche, Ryan is a jerk, Harry is a self-involved dingbat, Kit is a cliched cute young man who thinks he's immortal and omniscient, Isabelle is a terribly obtuse and shallow woman and even Birdie is a skittish pain in the ass. I actually liked Pete and never could figure out why they split up. I think Pete is the only person I've actually liked so far.
But I'll tell you right now, it beats the hell out of Cornwell's capslock histrionics on every single page....
*Must have been looking at a different date on the title page--this book published in 2000. ...more
I didn't realize this book was something like thirteen years old when I picked it up at the library. I thought it was a more recent piece, but a checkI didn't realize this book was something like thirteen years old when I picked it up at the library. I thought it was a more recent piece, but a check on Goodreads revealed that it came before The Murder Room, which I have recently read. Well, last year.
I want to say something about Father John very quickly. He was convicted of child molestation, and a handful of characters, certainly not all, comment that it was "only fondling" and that no child was raped or injured. Well, as we all know, or should, that's not an excuse or a mitigation. A great deal of damage has been done by "fondling."
However, these comment were not as pervasive as I thought they were going to be, from the reviews I read here. I think they were mentioned perhaps three times, that I remember. A great many other shocks and crimes came into play here, and the shocking murder at the center of the book overshadowed these words.
I think that the reviews that become outraged over this book are assuming that the author has that "only fondling so it's okay" worldview, and that is a mistake. If, outside of this book, James had commented in that way, made that opinion known, that would be one thing. But it's never wise to assume that the opinions spoken by fictional characters reflect the opinions of the author. I do not see the dialogue in this book as James' condoning child molestation, or even dismissing it. I see the characters interacting and making sense of what they're doing and feeling in words as best they can. They like Father John, and they don't want to believe he is capable of such a thing, but he was convicted and confessed, so they have to approach it somehow.
Those of you who know me know that I don't take well to absolutist thought. I don't deal in black and white, this or that, dualistic thinking. For me, absolutism leads to a place of absurdity (the Bible is true, so it's LITERALLY true, so the world is no more than 6000 years old!), hypocrisy (the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination and so is shellfish but lalala let's just skip that part because I love lobster), or cruelty (I don't think I need to define this one, but hey, how about that whole Spanish Inquisition thing, right?).
There is a lot in this book that is taken in stride by its characters, but it all comes back to a sense of humanity. That's the test. Those who are empathetic, or protecting life, seeing beauty or just being gentle.....those are forgiven their sins to some degree. Those who pursue their black and white ideals, desires and entitlements, those who are too rigid to see any other way....they meet a bad end. That's not a bad message for a book like this. At least for me.
I'm not saying that in real life, we should forgive child molesters for only fondling. Father John Betterton was not forgiven. He's a registered sexual predator. He gets to live with that for the rest of his life, wherever he goes. Does he not deserve to be treated a person, once he's served his time, and registered with the police station and tried to atone? Is he not allowed that?
See, that's an interesting question to me. And in the world that James has created here, sinners who retain their humanity get to be treated like people.
It's a very complicated world James has built here. And I find it interesting. ...more
Other than some technical copyediting problems and a tendency for the heroine to sink into hysteria, this is a solid effort. I think the copyeditors nOther than some technical copyediting problems and a tendency for the heroine to sink into hysteria, this is a solid effort. I think the copyeditors need to go ahead and use the computer for cleanup--a spellcheck program would have caught the triple "p" in one word, and a find/replace function should have been used to catch the "grizzly/grisly" error--and then trust themselves to fix the rest.
The copyediting problems take one star, the plucky heroine who still screams a lot takes another. Otherwise, I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to reading Death du Jour. ...more
The dialogue in this book is awful. Just unbelievably awful. It's clear the author is trying for quirky bantering, especially with her side charactersThe dialogue in this book is awful. Just unbelievably awful. It's clear the author is trying for quirky bantering, especially with her side characters, Sherlock (really?) and Savich, who are married FBI partners and the anchors of the series (protagonists come and go, but Sherlock and Savich and their awkward flirtations remain for each book). She fails. Obviously, she adores her little anchors, but when they talk sexy talk, they sound like Aspies talking about trains, but not as hot.
And then there's the problem of the Sookie Stackhouse-like heroine, who is supposed to be a Ph.D and all kinds of brilliant, but her idea of solving her problems is to live in homeless shelters for a few weeks until she figures things out.
And the plot is too stupid for words, so we'll just quit here. ...more
Every work has an audience, and is written toward an intended audience. It's no use saying the author wrote it for herself; even if she believes she dEvery work has an audience, and is written toward an intended audience. It's no use saying the author wrote it for herself; even if she believes she did, she still had someone else in mind, someone she imagined would read it.
Shadow Unit's intended audience is LiveJournal. Period. From the interstitial "blog entries" to the dialogue to the descriptions to the relationships, this is a LiveJournal fan community work. There are many times I had to stop and ask myself, "Would someone really say that, if she weren't nostril deep in LJ fan community?"
It's not all a bad thing--the LJ community tends to be literate beyond the SF/geek fanbase, and so that adds a layer that you won't find in the kind of TV shows this story is based on. But there are still deep problems with the characters that I find myself withdrawing from, just as I have found myself withdrawing from the LJ community.
The first and biggest problem with LJ-flavored fiction is the old "men written as women with penises" problem. There's a "blog" (LiveJournal has never been particularly bloggy to me--it's really a much more literate and game-devoid early version of Facebook based not on who you know but who you find) entry in which Chaz Villette reveals he is going on a date. He actually (jokingly) begs someone to dress him and do his hair. Now that's something adorable you would see on LJ. That's not how I perceive (I'm putting the onus on me here) a federal agent to behave in a public, albeit friendslocked forum.
(Let's be serious here. Would any federal agent, knowing what he knows about the law and what can be done to get around, even flout it, would put this kind of thing out on LiveJournal, of all services?)
And there's the whole "dress me, do my hair!" thing as a young man (the youngest man on the team), who has a macho (but gay) Texan and a 60's throwback they call "Duke" after the Doonesbury character, as colleagues, would likely never be caught saying, never mind squealing with two of the three woman who look at him in a motherly sort of way. I know, stereotypes.
It's probably just me, but I find the LiveJournal flavor so pervasive, that it puts me off the whole project. I can't make it work in my head, and when I do, it feels sticky, like onehanded use of the keyboard.
I enjoy the characters, and the stories are fairly well constructed, though poorly written. Having to backtrack once or twice to figure out who is speaking or what is happening in a scene is my problem. I'm reading too fast or I'm not paying attention. When I have to backtrack every third or fourth scene, or I have to reread to figure out why a character I thought was dead is suddenly speaking is the author's problem. (Or, since I've withdrawn from LJ culture, again my problem? Not getting the shorthand?)
It's not working for me. That doesn't mean it won't work for you. But I'm feeling like the wallflower at the party (or worse, one of the cheerleaders who quit the squad), and that is never how your reader should feel. ...more