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This story unfolds at a small town pace, where the consequences of a single horrific action, on a single night, spreads forward through time and across generations like the butterfly affect leading to cyclones. It is sad, tragic and ultimately an uplifting tale of fear, sorrow and unexpected redemption.
I know this has garnered fabulous reviews. I read widely and a lot. I found this slow, the writing dull and the characters so mired in misery that death seemed a fair option for them all. I saw no beauty in the writing and cared so little I gave up quarter way through. I rarely don’t finish books but ploughing through this was a punishment exercise.
Despite every single one of my favourite authors saying how great this book was, I really struggled to get one third of the way before giving up. Set in the present day but the main reference is a crime some years ago. I always got the feeling I'd walked into a movie half way through and what I was reading was telling me what I'd missed in the first half. With so many rave reviews, I came to the conclusion that not every great novel is a good read for everybody! I guess we all have one novel that we just don't feel comfortable with. Crime novel on the year only getting one star? Hard to read the account of the victim through her niece who wasn't born then, so my view is purely personal and don't feel it's a real reflection of the award winning book, but you can't please everyone!
I doubt the writer has ever been to California. None of the places he refers to exist and the environment he tries to create is not like any location in all of California. The characters are as unbelievable as their names: Walk, Star, Duchess. A writer is most successful when writing about what they know, Chris Whitaker doesn't know anything about California (I have lived there over 50 years). All the praises this book received the quotes all over the jacket are misleading. Threw it in the recycle bin after page 50, a waste of time.
Such glowing reviews, so many stars, so disappointed. The writer lives in England and if he had set his story there I might have more enthralled with his prose. The novel is, instead, set in a town in California near the Pacific Coast. Mr Whittaker's grasp of American English definitely needed a fact checker since there are quite a few jarring mistakes that kept diverting my attention from the plot. Americans, at least in California, do not call a 6 pack of beer a 'sixer', or refer to mustard as 'French's', or hot dogs, or franks as 'frankfurters'. Women in California do not 'fall pregnant'. they get pregnant. In California we turn off the TV or turn off the garden hose, Mr. Whittaker's characters 'cut the TV' and 'cut the hose'. He refers to a cute town as looking as though it had been 'lifted from Anaheim', does he mean Disneyland? Kids who ride up on their bikes rest their hand on their 'Stelbers', pray, what ARE Stelbers? In California no small towns have a 'butcher's' as a separate shop, butcher's are in larger-or sometimes smaller- markets. If these people live near Salinas, as he purports, they would not be talking about the baseball team the Angels, but about the Giants. His place and street names are laughably non-Californian-Cape Haven, Bitterwater, Vermont, Pensacola-and I'm only on page 38. A deer would never be roaming 'the Mendocino' which first of all is a long way from Salinas, and is the name of a County in the State, as well as a town in the County of Mendocino, and while there might be deer in Mendocino there is NO area ever referred to as 'the Mendocino'. If Walk is traveling 100 miles from the area near Salinas to the prison to pick up Vincent he would be nowhere near the town of Hanford, and there is no 'Central Valley Highway' anywhere in the state. I've gotten as far as page 65 and have just noticed he has a street named Cassidy and a young girl who torments Duchess also named Cassidy...oh, and there is a character named 'Dickie Darke'...seriously?. I'm sorry, I can't continue to read this; why oh why did his publisher not have an editor check these things, and why oh why did the author not place this perhaps intriguing novel in a setting and country with which he was familiar? Sadly, on page 72 my journey with Star, Duchess, and Walk is over.
I made several attempts (3) to read this book. After all the rave reviews I thought maybe my comprehension faculties had eluded me, I stopped at page 35. Reluctantly picked it up again, struggled on for a few pages, stopped again and picked it up again when I managed two more pages before deciding to stop finally. I truly do not understand the hype about this book and the awful named characters. I'm glad to see since I stopped reading it and looked at some reviews here that I am not the only person who feels this way about the book.
..is how this dreadful book was even shortlisted for the CWA dagger, let alone win it. It is always frustrating to be duped by over-hyped praise from critics into buying a book that sounds so good, only to find that it is anything but. Here, there is a gulf between the praise and the reality that it's more a canyon than a gulf. The book feels strange and phoney right from the start. Characters you don't care about, a landscape and setting that feels just wrong (as pointed out by an Amazon reviewer who clearly knows the USA better than the writer) - and a strange, forced style of writing that feels like it's trying just too hard to inject something different into the storytelling. A book to conquer the world is one laughable "professional" review to be found on the cover. Nope, just one for the charity shop. Life is too short to struggle with stuff like this. What was the CWA thinking?
Got this for £2 and was glad in the end I didn’t pay more. Surprised by the rave reviews. I felt the only positive was the relationship between Duchess and her brother Robin, with some real character development for Duchess through the book. Otherwise, this book was a bust that I was forcing myself to finish after 50% in the hope it would improve. It did not. The main character, Walk, is completely void of personality and spends the book inexplicably worshipping his childhood best friend, literally never developing a backbone. Vincent, the possible villain, is nauseatingly saint-like in his self punishing attitude. Dickie Darke… need I say more? Why’s he named like a superhero alter ego? Everyone in the township is unlikeable and unmemorable to the point that I lost track of who was who and why they mattered. The story completely stalled in the middle and I lost all interest in the murder investigation because it seemed Walk was just going in circles with the same theory. The writing style is quite jarring due to short/incomplete sentences. I don’t mind this usually but it felt excessive, and the author decided people needed to speak like that as well, which made the dialogue feel unrealistic since everyone was communicating in note form. Overall would not recommend at all.
Another UK author who sets their book in USA. Cannot a thriller be based in the UK any more? Presumably, it is the lure of the filthy lucre by trying to appeal to the wider American readership. However, I found the Blueberry pie setting with characters called Darke, Walk, Duchess, and Star particularly excruciating. The characters were unpleasant and the story just dragged on and on. In the end I found I could not be excited about the denouement - just glad that I had got to the end of the book. Only wish that I had made that decision 400 pages earlier!
Clearly, there are some people who love this book. I'm not one of them. Whittaker's writing style is wordy, clumsy and fake: by the third "cut the engine" I was only a few chapters in. Where did the name 'Dickie Darke' come from? And then there's French's mustard and 'cut the TV': his efforts to sound American are dreadful. The pace is so ponderous and dull, reading was like wading through chest-high mud. I suppose some people ignore amateurish glitches and just get into the narrative, but however clever the storyline and however striking the characters, the prose style is truly awful, and it needs to be re-written.