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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Lesson of Her Death

*** The Lesson of Her Death by Jeffery Wilds Deaver. Mystery.

I picked this one up used because I'd heard good things about Deaver's books--I'm guessing they apply to his newer books, because I was less than impressed.

A murder of a female student (I absolutely refuse to use the term "coed") at a small private liberal arts college in a small town throws the college and the town for a loop.

Deputy sheriff Bill Corde is on the case, but he's hampered from every direction--from the sheriff, who's decided it's a serial/cult killer, because the sensationalism will ensure his reelection, to the college administrators who are more concerned about drops in enrollment and endowments, to marital problems exacerbated by arguments over how to deal with their learning-impaired daughter Sarah.

Everyone has secrets they're hiding, and different reasons for pushing their own agendas, only some of which are germane to the case.

In that respect, The Lesson of Her Death works. It is full of twists and turns, and that's always fun.

However, some of those turns don't make sense, and that starts with the very first scene: a young girl and a man in a car, she's protesting, he's pitiless. Turns out it's not abuse--he's just her dad, taking her to school, and she doesn't want to go. It's bait and switch. It pissed me off and let me know that I could not trust the author. Really not a good way to start a book, if you ask me.

So right from the beginning, I feel like I'm behind, like this is a sequel (it's not), or like there are a couple of chapters missing. From the way the father and daughter acted, I'd assumed the mother was dead, and was confused when she showed up at the end of chapter 2.

It was a short step from confused to irritated. Diane Corde is... well, she's stupid. And she's proud of that. Consulting a psychologist about Sarah's problems in school, she demands that the psychologist simply tell Sarah to stop "acting out." There's more, but you get the gist. Bill's not particularly bright either--at one point he makes an issue of looking up words he doesn't understand--quite a few of them are pretty simple, ordinary words. I wasn't impressed.

It seemed like there was an anti-intellectual message, which is odd, because
The Lesson of Her Death is just full of words Bill would have to look up. It reads as if it were written with a thesaurus next to the keyboard. Nobody walks when they can stride; wrinkles are deep furrows; and light doesn't just shine through the trees--it's "magical--golden yellow and filled with dust and steam and dots of spring insects that glowed in the river of radiant light." (This last was in the learning-impaired child's POV, by the way--yeah, like I buy that she'd think that.)

As for the mystery case, the whole cult-killer premise is insanely, ridiculously thin--it all hinges on the fact that the killing took place on the night of.... *drumroll*... the quarter moon. Uh, right. Because cult wackos are always scheduling things for the quarter moon.

Then the one person who I thought acted most suspiciously turned out not only innocent of murder but also secret-less. I'm not going to give anything away, but even if this character wasn't guilty, I'd have liked a little bit of explanation for their actions--besides saintliness.

It was a little hard keeping some of the characters straight, because it was a little like Peyton Place, with everybody sleeping with everybody else--apparently these small liberal arts colleges are Hotbeds of Passion™.

A couple other things bugged me--the diatribe on the evils of science fiction movies, which really shouldn't have surprised me. I mean, given how stupid Diane and Bill are, you'd kind of expect that ****mild spoiler**** their teenage son would think that science fiction movies are real ****.

And... the book first came out in 1993. Who the heck
shined their kids' shoes in 1993? In 1993, I had an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old. Neither of them had shoes that needed to be shined. I wouldn't have had time to shine them if they did. Please, feel free to set me straight on this--tell me you had a 9-year-old in 1993, and you shined their shoes once a week... and that they were proud of their shiny shoes and careful not to scuff them.

*deep breath* Funny how little things can just stick in your head, isn't it?

My last complaint has to do with the writing style. It inexplicably bounces back and forth between third person past, and third person present--sometimes in the same paragraph. If I'd been invested in the story, if I'd cared about the characters, or been anxious to see what happened next, I might never have noticed. But once I did, I couldn't un-notice it, and every time it happened, it bounced me right out of the story, and made me snarl. My kids now know that switching back and forth between present and past tenses is A Bad Idea.

I'd probably have rated this even lower if I didn't enjoy the puzzle twists. Granted, some of the twists were illogical or irritating, like the quarter-moon or the science fiction movie connections, but at least they were nicely convoluted.


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wow too many confusing chapters!

And re to the scenes switching back and forth between present to past tense, this explain why you couldn't get into Suzanne Brockmann navy SEALs series...hehehe *duck head* just teasing you!
No, I didn't mean present and past in time--I meant present and past tense. Like this:

She picks up the book and reads it. The tenses kept shifting, and it irritated her. It distracts her and keeps her from enjoying the story. She blogged about how annoying it was.


Brockmann's another story--I never said I disliked her books; I just don't love them. Unlike Linda Howard, Catherine Coulter, and Stephen King--all popular authors whose writing styles I just cannot read.
Oh, yeah--after reading Marcinko's SEALs, Brockmann's seem awfully tame.

Ah - I can see how that example of present and past tense can drive you nuts. That explain it more better :)

I never said you dislike Suz's books. Just that you couldn't get into some of them *lol*.. But I'm very surprise that you like "Hearthrob" thought. I probably read that one this summer....

Who Marcinko? Never heard of her....or is it him?
Well, darn. I haven't read one of his books since I started writing longer reviews.

It's Richard Marcinko--80s romance conventions aside, that's a "he". ;-) Here's his Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Marcinko--it's pretty comprehensive.
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