Turgid. If you're reading it for information, there are better sources. It's only really of interest as part of a study of Dumas or of French history...moreTurgid. If you're reading it for information, there are better sources. It's only really of interest as part of a study of Dumas or of French history - not so much in the sense of it being about France, but how the French viewed others at the time. (less)
It's slightly odd to find myself reading the sixth sequel in a series of ten, especially when sequels two to five haven't been written yet, and when i...moreIt's slightly odd to find myself reading the sixth sequel in a series of ten, especially when sequels two to five haven't been written yet, and when it's so different to the book it's apparently following. I normally like to start at the beginning of a series and read them in order, so it did feel like being thrown into the middle of something with no warning. It's been a long, long time since I read The Count of Monte Cristo, so I'm sure there's a lot I was missing that I would have picked up if I'd re-read that and then read the first sequel before this. I'll also confess that I haven't read the whole of Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy either. (Or even seen the movies, come to that.) As a result, I suspect there are even more allusions I'm missing. No matter, it's still perfectly readable. Do be aware, though, that the story doesn't finish neatly. As you might expect from a series, it ends on something of a cliff-hanger.
What grabbed me with this book - which I read in a single sitting - was the immense variety of ideas being thrown out. There are legal issues (how many books will quote extensively from the Sovereign Immunity Act, for example?), a look at how to found your own country and the legal position of Sealand, and questions of prison reform and justice for abused women, then there's a lot of stuff about the ethics of hacking, technology for altering fingerprints, and so on. Meanwhile there are secret societies, conspiracies, and all sorts of shenanigans. It's not a simple, predictable book that fits into a defined genre. The main character is also unusual - who exactly is she? And how did she get to be in the position she is? She's not a believable character, in that she's definitely larger than life, but she's interesting and fun.
My only real quibble with the book is that although there's a great story and engaging characters, the writing often lacks depth and finesse. Too many one-sentence paragraphs make it feel choppy and break up the flow, and there's not enough emotional detail. The pseudonymous author too often tells us bluntly how someone is feeling or what they're thinking, when it would be better to give us a scene which lets us deduce what's going on beneath the surface: "show, don't tell," as most editors will tell you. Some of the dialogue also feels contrived and worthy of a B-movie, particularly in scenes featuring Latina characters, and the courtroom scenes come across as far too simplistic, lacking the intricacy of a John Grisham.
On balance, though, it's a fun, easy read which has a lot of potential to develop into an interesting series.(less)
I didn't enjoy the previous Diana Rivers books, but this one was okay. I liked the story - murder in the expat colony of 1960s Malaya. However, I didn...moreI didn't enjoy the previous Diana Rivers books, but this one was okay. I liked the story - murder in the expat colony of 1960s Malaya. However, I didn't like the way the story was told.
It's told in flashback, using the device of a novelist who is given some diaries and asked if she can make a novel out of them. I've never liked the idea of using a writer as a character: it always feels like the author is trying to make themselves part of the story instead of letting it stand on its own. What I really didn't like though, was that the flashbacks didn't feel like diaries for two reasons. Firstly, they weren't the sort of thing that you write in a diary: who, when writing about traumatic events, remembers to write about what clothes they changed into, the shower they took, the texture of the carpet and other mundane details? And secondly, they didn't feel like they were written by the children whose diaries they claimed to me: the language was too adult, and the viewpoints were too mature. As a result, it felt jarring, and the flips back to the present day felt intrusive and unnecessary. I would have enjoyed it much more if it simply been told as a straightforward story, without the flashbacks and diaries.
The end was a real let-down. I guessed whodunnit fairly soon after the actual crime took place (in fact, I'd guessed who it was going to be and what they were going to do before then), and I'd started to suspect the big twist fairly early. I don't mind that - it makes me feel smart - but the big reveal at the end was something of an anti-climax.
So, good story, good setting, good characters, but it would have been better without the Diana Rivers framing. (less)