Monday, May 4, 2009

Lacking in verisimilitude and subtlety

I start each book I read full of optimism, hoping to be able to rave about it. Especially in the case of a book like Running from the Devil, a debut thriller written by a woman and featuring a female protagonist. I wanted to love it. It's true that I was racing to finish reading it. But, alas, it was only so I could be done with it and move on to something more enjoyable.

I have to admit that the opening is strong. The reader is plunged into a plane crash as seen through the eyes of the afore-mentioned female protagonist, Emma Caldridge. Emma is a biochemist working in the cosmetics industry. She had been flying to Columbia to hunt for botanicals to use in her work. While she dozed, the flight had been taken over by hijackers. Many passengers die when the plane is forced down onto a too-small landing strip. Emma is thrown clear of the wreckage, miraculously unharmed. She manages to avoid being captured with the 70 other survivors by the guerrillas that hijacked the flight. A plane-load of Americans are valuable hostages.

And so begins an epic rumble in the jungle. Emma is the wild card, trailing the guerrillas and hostages. She seems to have a hidden agenda, but we don't know what it is. To this mix, add a lone drug enforcement officer, American government and military assets, Columbian government and military assets, good and bad mercenaries, any number of drug cartels and paramilitary groups, a child soldier, some indigenous peoples, and two bomb-sniffing dogs. Shake well.

It's not a bad set-up, but I began to have problems with the novel early on. Simply put, I had a big problem with believability. Little things... When time is of the essence, why drive over to a company to acquire basic information that can be achieved with a phone call? Would the US government allow a contractor field a major press conference on his own? Call me a nit-picker, but lots and lots of these little things took me out of the story. As I got deeper and deeper into the book, the actions of the characters became so over the top I couldn't believe any of it.

My other big problem was the utter lack of subtlety in the storytelling. I could give any number of examples, but I feel like I'm droning. I don't want to imply that Ms. Freveletti has done nothing right, but it wasn't enough. I would add that is disingenuous of Morrow to market the book as featuring "the speculative-science adventure of James Rollins." As if.

Now, I'm willing to overlook any number of flaws when I'm caught up in a novel, but I never was caught up. I realize mine is the minority opinion, but by the time I reached the end, Running from the Devil was simply tedious.
Comment Permalink

No comments:

Post a Comment