Book Review: McNamara series Set 1 (* if I’m feeling generous)

I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review.

It’s not often I abandon a book, especially one where I feel under some obligation, as I do here. As I was sent this free of charge, I should uphold my side of the bargain. However, almost from the beginning I struggled with this book, for a variety of reasons.

The main reason I found this book difficult to read is that, quite honestly, it isn’t very well written. The characters are wooden, badly described, and unbelievable. They don’t speak with any conviction, or natural speech patterns – for example, when McNamara arrives at the crime scene, one junior police officer says to another: Look out, he’s mad, Jo. Look at his gait. Something’s got under his hat. We’re in trouble, listen to me. You know how volatile he is and anything could happen when he’s like that” If you try reading that aloud, it doesn’t trip neatly off the tongue, which makes me feel nobody would actually say that.

The author spends three paragraphs (three!!) describing the weather, in great detail, which actually has no bearing on the plot. I frankly don’t care that the weather in Edinburgh has been unseasonably warm, but the nights are getting cooler, although people are not yet “piling a lot of clothes on” they will be doing so in a couple of weeks. SO WHAT?!

In one scene, where there are just two people, C.I. McNamara and Bryony, the love interest, the author seems to struggle to find ways to describe who is doing which action. In my opinion, I would have generally stuck with he/she/ Bryony / McNamara or relied onthe intelligence of the reader to work out who was doing what. But instead, we have “the C.I.”/”the man” / “the lass” – all of which seemed clumsy and unnecessary. In a fairly intimate scene, the use of “the man” (when we know who “the man” is) seems really strange.

There are also some very odd turns of phrase which really annoyed me:

When describing the arrival of McNamara at the crime scene: “He was far from his usual slightly grumpy mood, which seemed like a sunshine now” (what?!)

The young policewoman wonders if her boss had been with somebody special:  He wouldn’t have cared a fig if he had been on a regular date” (there seems to be an obsession with dried fruit here!)

The grumpy McNamara says to a young woman: “You’ll have to wait for him for a while, if you sat your cap for him” (Bad grammar, incorrect vocabulary, and incorrect phrasal verb. Plus, who speaks like that nowadays?!)

I also feel that we came into this story, which I understand is the first of the series, in the middle of the narrative. It refers to characters (such as Mrs Somebody “the old bat next door”) already met and events that happened previously, which left me very confused. I realise that it’s necessary to have a back story, but it needs to be introduced in a way that is much more subtle, and doesn’t leave the reader frustrated.

In the notes about the author, she apparently fell in love with Scotland which is why she set her stories in Edinburgh. In which case, it might make sense to use Scottish, or at least British, words. “Parking lot”? I don’t think so. There were other American expressions used which jarred. Throwing in the odd “lass” does not convince me that this is set anywhere specific. The phrase “she lived…in the village situated in the north of Edinburgh” tells me that little, or no research has been done. A hint for the author: read the Rebus series if you want to know how to write with a sense of place. You can tell that Ian Rankin knows his city like the back of his hand.

I finally (and literally!) tossed my Kindle from me in disgust when I came across another sentence that made no sense to me. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back: “Each house sported three floors and each floor accommodated one flat, which left people wonder if the flats were spacious enough.” WHAT?!

In the end, I don’t know if this book is badly written or badly edited. Whichever it is, by the end of Chapter 5 I was so infuriated that I stopped reading. One star. Avoid like the plague.

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