Joshua Burns's Reviews > River Road

River Road by Suzanne  Johnson
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's review
Dec 29, 12

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River Road, with a bit of effort, merges local Louisiana flavor and paranormal happs, complete with a no way you saw that coming whodunnit and numerous "dates" between Drusilla, a wizard, and the important men in her life: an undead pirate, Jean, and Jake, a loup-garou, and her shapeshifter partner, Alex.

At the level of description there is much to gush about. The sentences are often deserving of listening to outside of their context. The opening line has a great comparison between the trudge of time and an alligator’s step through sludge. The image vaguely recalled is that of the opening scene of The Thin Red Line as a similar beast submerges itself. Where the metaphor becomes even more stimulating and relevant is its proximity to Jean, the man who has all the time in the world being that unkillable swiller of booty.

The love quadrangle seems to be the most unique thing about this series aside from its well-developed and involved depictions of Louisiana life.

The food, jazz, seediness, and natural habitats kind of make me want to visit.
But back to the love quadrangle. Jean, the undead pirate, should be Drusilla's choice. He is just too masterful in his understanding of the world. Why she continues to hassle over the squabbling shapeshifter cousins, Alex and Jake, is beyond me.

Usually I would not be so involved in the relationship angle. But after the book sets the stakes and solves some immediate problems with the paranormal crime it pretty much goes on pause so that the dates can happen, which I understand are good for the life of the story in the long run, but do not so much keeping us involved in the ongoing investigation.

It seemed I was always hearing that there were no new leads and for awhile there is just this inescapable chasm that is suddenly crossed in act three. I mean I understand criminal investigations are difficult to incorporate into the dating scenes. It's just one of those can't get your floor wet but gotta to walk across impasses.

The true talent is displayed more on the level of characterization than on the level of plot. Sebastian, Drusilla's troublesome cat, was a real joy to see even if it was a spiteful and vindictive spawn of a demon. Not in actuality spawn of a demon (although that would have been a real twist). But just incredibly destructive to Drusilla's day to day living conditions.

Perhaps if the paranormal happ crisis had been better bent into service of the dates, and more time had been given to Jean (he’s already immortal but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t do with more involvement), the eventual reveal of the doer of the polluting would not have seemed so anticlimactic.

Where the paranormal crime poops out is the sheer limitedness of it. This is where the local setting actually acts to River Road’s detriment. The stakes, which seemed misleadingly high, hell hath no fury high, are cooled and then winked out of existence because they do not stem from Satan himself or an unwilling servant of Satan such as Drusilla‘s troublesome cat, Sebastian (still unfortunately not actually the spawn of Satan).

The dating portion and general crisis of Drusilla’s life somewhat redeems this slump. The treatment of the final fight and aftermath are masterfully done, showing us no more than we should be allowed to see. Then we just get back to this merry go round love quadrangle which we can only hope factors more naturally into the next book. I could read these dating scenes all day. Just have them spill over the banks and into the crime!

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