Saturday, June 13, 2009
Speaks the Nightbird
The plot device of an innocent person in jail and the brave legal defendant comes to find the true villain has been used from Perry Mason and before. It is enough of a trope that when you see a book following this pattern, you assume that something new and different will happen, not the same old Perry Mason-esque plot. That is what I wanted from this book, a new twist on something very familiar.
The writer was working very hard to give the reader a good experience. There were some good lines, "He was the salt of the earth, yet you could tell he didn't have many spices to choose from." is one example that I chuckled at. But it felt too forced. Good descriptive writing feels effortless, this felt plodding and labored. Describing a person's clothing in detail is fine if it is important to set the tone and for a plot point, which it was the first time. The second and third and more it felt more like a box to be checked off. OK, they get up, I describe in detail the clothes they put on, they go about their day.
That was one thing that bothered me, but I finally had to quit writing when I realized that I didn't care about the characters, and I felt that they didn't either. The situation is a woman accused of witchcraft and a magistrate sent with his young clerk to try her case. Because of a convoluted plot sequence the young man ends up in jail next to the witch. The magistrate is supposed to be worried for the young man because of his proximity to evil. Perhaps he will be tempted and effected by her presence. That is a legitimate concern for 17th century minds. But the dialogue and internal monologue that went with this was so unconvincing I had to quit. If an author is going to write a book about people of faith, he should be able to convincingly portray them.
It was the reading equivalent of watching a Jr high production of The Crucible. I was going to just read the end to see if the ending was how I guessed it would be. When I came back to the book the next day I realized didn't even care enough to do that. Watch an episode of Perry Mason instead.
Speaks the Nightbird. Robert McCammon. Pocket Books. 2007