Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: FAN MAIL - P. D. Martin

I heard that FAN MAIL by P.D. Martin has been published in both the UK and the US. So here is a re-post of the review I wrote when the book was published in Australia early last year.

P.D. Martin
Pan Macmillan.

Australian FBI profiler Sophie Anderson is given an easy job on her last day at Quantico. She is to give a guided tour of the FBI facility to a crime novelist and brief her on profiling. Sophie doesn’t warm to Loretta Black whom she finds rude and aloof.

One of the first things Sophie learns on arrival in Los Angeles to begin her new posting is that Black has been murdered. This obviously wasn’t a random act of violence. Black has been killed and her body posed in a manner that exactly duplicates her newly released novel. Feeling that she can give some insights Sophie contacts the detective investigating and offers to help. Among the fan mail Loretta Black has received is one signed simply “a fan”. It criticises the violence in Black’s book and seems to contain a thinly veiled threat warning her to stop. When another author is found murdered in the same way as the book she has written, Sophie and Detective Dave Sorrell believe they have found a serial killer who has perhaps killed before and will almost certainly kill again.

FAN MAIL is P. D. Martin’s third in the Sophie Anderson series and her strongest to date. Martin follows Sophie and Detective Sorrell as they conduct the investigation. So many detective novels are linear; we start at point A, go to point B and end at point C. No so FAN MAIL. It twists and turns; sometimes at breakneck speed, other times almost stalled as they hit dead ends. There is backtracking to re-question witnesses and suspects and frequent revisiting of evidence in light of new information. Gradually the detectives build up a picture of the crimes and the person responsible which enables them to solve the case.

Martin has also managed to pull off something that I don't think too many can do successfully. That is to write in the first person, present tense. Too often when an author does this, it feels awkward and contrived but in the case of FAN MAIL it works very well.

There quite a few references to Martin’s previous novel, THE MURDERERS’ CLUB, and a resolution of some loose ends that were left in that book. So if you are new to P.D. Martin’s writing, I recommend you read them in order.

Martin seems to be getting better and better with each book and I have become an unashamed fan of her work. I eagerly await her next offering.

2008 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A plea to authors - easy on the adjectives. I beg you.

*Sunnie drags out her soapbox, climbs onto it, clears her throat and begins her rant*

I'm afraid it's one of my pet peeves: the overuse of adjectives.

I seem to be coming across it more and more these days and it annoys me no end.

It's all very well to say a man is short, but do we need subsequent paragraphs to also describe him as "compact" and "dwarfish"? I get the idea already. I don't need it to be rammed home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer on my noggin.

This passage ensured the book I was reading was a DNF for me as the author had indulged in similar adjectival overuse prior to this.

Another recent instance of adjectival abuse I came across was an author seemingly addicted to one particular adjective. I lost track of the number of times the word "whinge" was used (for those not familiar with this one - the wiktionary definition of whinge is to complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner). There seemed to be an entire squad of detectives all whingeing their way through the story. In the end it became a distraction.

I'll close my rant with my favourite example of adjective overload from a book by an author who shall remain nameless.

"She took two of the upturned glasses standing on the crisp white
towel on the black marble counter and poured them both a drink before
gliding across the room, extending her long slender arm and handing him
his water."

The above was a very minor detail. She gave him a glass of water
would have sufficed.

Yes, I know that's probably at the extreme end of the spectrum with the overuse of adjectives, but you get the point. Less truly is more.

What I want to know is why? Why the need for over description and why do editors let it go through to the keeper?