Gerald Sinstadt's Reviews > A Deniable Death

A Deniable Death by Gerald Seymour
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May 25, 11

bookshelves: fiction-general
Read from May 19 to 25, 2011

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Gerald Sinstadt Two stars for the latest novel by an admired author requires explanation.

Strangely, this doesn't seem a reader-friendly book. The frequent changes of focus - location, personnel - are disconcerting and impede narrative pace. The identification of characters lurches towards caricature: In the first fifty pages we encounter The Engineer, Echo Foxtrot - the Eternal Flame, Foxy, Badger, the Cousin, the Friend, the Jones Boys, Shagger, Hamfist, Corky and Harding. Most of these have real names, too, prompting turning back to re-read and remember.

Then there is the device of starting a new section with an unidentified pronoun: "He had never spoken to Echo Foxtrot ...", "He was a star ...", "In his experience ...", "He touched her hand ...", etc. Is this the same "he" from the immediately preceding section? Sometime it is, sometimes it is another "he." As a means of inviting the reader to continue it is at first confusing, then simply irritating.

And there is the research, a Gerald Seymour given. Often it can convey authenticity, but sometimes it simply seems like unnecessary padding: "Mansoor's wife worked as a typist for the intelligence officer in the Guard Corps barracks, the Crate Camp Garrison off the Ahvaz to Mahshar road ..." The first ten words there feel important, the last ten feel like showing off the homework. Again: "He was married to Lilli, who had been a theatre nurse at the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf ..." No doubt such an establishment exists but is the title relevant or simply there to impress?

Pressing on through the pages comes to seem as challenging as the gruelling surveillance marathon undertaken by the covert observation specialists charged with bringing about this Deniable Death.


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