Andrea's Reviews > To Catch A Fox

To Catch A Fox by Geoffrey Knight
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did not like it
bookshelves: mm

I bought this book the day it came out, and read it over a few days (it took me longer than usual because I had to keep putting it down to save my tooth enamel). I dithered about writing a review, because I really enjoyed Ethan Day's other books. I've bought and read everything he has published with the exception of one book on my to-read list, and rated them all with 4 or 5 stars. I look forward to buying future books of his. As long as he is listed as the sole author, that is!

Because Ethan Day is a known quantity, I did not bother to read an excerpt from the book, something I always do with unknown authors. After all, my book allowance is limited, and I do very much judge a book by the quality of the writing. Had I read the excerpt, I would have realized that Mr. Day could not have possibly been responsible for much of the writing in this book, and would not have bothered with it.

Because people's mileage may vary when it comes to perception of characters, triteness of plotlines, etc., I will stick mostly to an evaluation of the writing itself, which was generally abysmal by any objective standard. Here is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend today on the subject of poor writing, using this as my example:
I just read a novel co-authored by an author I quite like.  I think he must have written about two scenes in the whole book.  The punctuation, grammar, spelling -- the worst I've ever seen in a published novel.  And that is saying something.  I want to write a scathing review, but I am too soft-hearted.  Also, the book was so bad on every front that I am ashamed to admit I actually spent time and money on it.  In the e-book, I started highlighting agreement errors, run-on sentences, misspellings, incorrect word choices, and -- ack! -- apostrophe errors galore.  Misuse and abuse of hyphens, dashes, spacing and -- oh-my-lord -- commas also abounded.  After my markup, a large percentage of the book was yellow.

Rather than just rant on, let me share a few bits and pieces -- only the merest sampling, mind -- from the pages of this novel.

"He felt more attune (sic) to the grandfather he had never known than to his more refined and gentile (sic) pillar-of-the-community parents."

"Her arms gently plucking it (sic) the low-hanging twines." (And yes, that was the complete sentence.)

Set in the South, our MC ate the following delicacies: crawfish e'touffee, café o'lait, and Po Boys. (As opposed to crawfish étouffée, café au lait, and poboys. )

"Cache" used for "cachet" and "chauffer for "chauffeur." Repeatedly.

One of the peripheral characters had a "heroine addiction." (Amusing mental images there.)

A comparison to a "film noir movie." Really?  Redundant much? Not to mention the "subsequent fallout."

The police were referred to as the poe-poe.  (The correct urban slang is po-po.)  I had images of ravens substituting for K9 units.

Fabric was snuggly wrapped.  I don't think the author intended images of diapers in that particular scene.

And yes, accidental typos abound these days.  But not to this extent!  The errors listed above are only a handful of the more amusing.  The sentence structure was so horrific at times that I couldn't even figure out what the author meant to say.  Mostly, though, it was just wincingly poor writing. Just a few examples from the first two chapters:

"Originally, it had been quite an impressive edifice, stretching out over the swamp on pylons, similar to a pier and included a small dock--built half on land and half over the water."

"The detest she held for him in the tenor of her voice said it all."

"Betty's face was still full, though certainly marked by time, yet even her conservatively-styled clothes were outshined by the crisp blue clarity of her eyes. Fox was struck by the fact that she came off quite youthful when their gazes met."  Ouch, ouch, ouch.  The clarity of eyes outshined -- not outshone, mind -- the conservative clothes?  What?  And she came off as youthful only at the exact instant their gazes met?  

"Somehow, he could almost hear her saying it, thinking she was apparently not playing with an entirely full deck." Huh?  So, what the author means to say is that the MC could imagine the woman saying something crazy, because he (the MC) did not believe she was playing with a full deck.  But how awkward can one be? Very, apparently.

"It had a tendency to cut their focus, their brain occupied with such tedium." (Oh, so true.)

"That being said, Fox had already discovered that his real name was Tucker Delacroix, that he was the nephew of one Millie Delacroix, who had raised him after being deserted by his own parents."  Good thing Millie is a girl's name, or we'd really be confused.

Then we get to chapter 3, which is almost completely free of my markup.  I think that this is where the author I actually enjoy picks up the narrative.  Alas, all too briefly!  

Oh, oh -- how about this -- "The man also known as [...] and several other miscellaneous alias's had spent a few years in prison, for crying out loud. Nothing about this place screamed lair, aside from maybe the camera's which came off as more paranoid than criminally insane."  Two egregious abuses of the poor apostrophe in two consecutive sentences.

What I can't understand is why the author I like, all of whose books I've rated highly for enjoyment value and competent writing would 1) put his name on this? and 2) would let it be published in this state?  Did he not read it, maybe?  How would that work?   If one looks beyond the poor writing and abysmal proofreading, we find a trite and boringly predictable cookie-cutter plot, with stock characters and very few scenes of redeeming value.  Well, none, actually -- two mildly amusing scenes don't even begin to redeem this book for me.

Oh, well -- sorry for the rant. Nero Wolfe (my favorite grammatical stickler) would not only have thrown this book against the wall after the first few sentences, he might even have stirred himself to heave his bulk out of his armchair and trodden upon the excrescence.  Ahem.  Not that he would have picked up a book like this in the first place. :-) Nero and Archie were just good friends, after all!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 13, 2012 – Shelved
March 20, 2013 – Shelved as: mm

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Lexi (new) - added it

Lexi Ander Nero Wolfe is the bomb. I believe we have all of Rex Stout's works. :)

message 2: by dbbks3 (new) - added it

dbbks3 Thanks for alerting me to a book to avoid.

message 3: by Kathleen (new) - added it

Kathleen As a tech writer, I'm sure I'd DNF this book early on. So...why bother. Thank you.

message 4: by Kathleen (new) - added it

Kathleen Ha! :::chuckling::: Discovered I've owned the book since 2012. Lost in my TBR pile.

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