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Read: Sanctus

Toyne’s Sanctus is a rather fast paced religious themed mystery thriller, though much of the pace seems to stem from the rather short chapters, each just a few pages long and ever changing the perspective.

The novel is perfectly enjoyable – until about the last 50 pages when the author solves the big mystery and drifts a bit too much into the supernatural. Still, I like the way he re-interprets the scriptures of the abrahamic religions.

Eventually, there are some further flaws. While most of the action takes places in a fictional small town in Turkey, everyone, even the turkish cop on duty, is pretty much US American – at least in their demeanor. While this avoids stereotypical characters (or, does it?) it also generates some rather generic protagonists. Furthermore, while coming up with a fictional place close to where you would suspect such a place if there were one avoids some controversy it just too clearly puts the fiction stamp on everything. The novel becomes less powerful than it could have been.

There is a sequel. And I really wonder what Toyne will do to the big abrahamic religion that he so enjoyingly unmasked as phony in this novel.

Read: Along Came a Spider

No, not a fan.

When looking to add a new author to my rotation for recreational reading picking a successful, that is a best selling, author seems like a good idea. Several millions of readers cannot be wrong.

Maybe it’s just herding.

James Patterson is one of the most commercially successful authors, his Alex Cross series consists of 21 novels. Surely, they must be good. Let me modify this: they cannot be all that bad.

I have two major problems with Along Came a Spider. The first is the character motivation and development of the protagonist Alex Cross. I don’t get him. An African American psychologist with a doctorate from one of the world’s most prestigious universities moves from a private practice to a job at the police just because he doesn’t find clients in his neighborhood. Interesting career move. Instead of changing occupations I would have changed the neighborhood. And, of course, he is a sensitive, creative, caring, and charitable person, playing the piano to relax and volunteering at a soup kitchen and all this while he is single parent of two kids. A homicide detective? All in all a little bit too cliched.

The second problem is a result of a stylistic choice. The novel is narrated from the first person perspective of the novel’s protagonist. Cross/Patterson even breaks the fourth wall somewhere near the end of the novel, explicitly stating that he, Alex Cross, is writing the book. That is not necessarily bad. However, the perspective switches quite often to the third person narrator when the focus is on someone else. Parts of the story are told that the protagonist should not know, that he should not be able to report. Additionally this endows the protagonist with some kind of clairvoyance. The separate elements of the plot just happen to fall in place; his actions, his planing seem to be guided by the superpower of omniscience that a narrator may quite naturally have.

Still, there were a few surprises and plot twist that were not immediately obvious. So despite Patterson being a terrible writer he is not that bad. I felt appropriately entertained. I am not sure, though, whether this is already good enough for Patterson to become part of my ‘rotation’…

Read: Sepulchre

Kate Mosse’s thing is actually four things: There is the female protagonist(s); there is the south of France, Languedoc; there is the interweaving of the present and the past, two parallel story lines; and, there is the esoteric mystery, the innuendo of the supernatural. In these respects Sepulchre is very similar to the Labyrinth that I have read earlier.

I like the first characteristic, it’s adding a nice variety to the novels I usually read. It’s not a distinctive mark. There a lots of novels with female protagonists. Mosse manages, however, to not write for a stereotyped audience. In principle, anyone could enjoy her works.

I have no strong opinion with regard to the geographic location. Again, it adds some variety to the usual mix. Though it is not like I feel I could benefit from change in this particular aspect.

The two time lines and the parallel development of the plots I indeed like. The parallelism was much more pronounced in Labyrinth. In Sepulchre the link between the two time lines relies much more (actually: only) on the kinship of the protagonists. Hence, with respect to the stylistic devices Sepulchre is less interesting, less refined than Mosse’s earlier novel.

Finally, I could certainly do without the supernatural. It’s completely dispensable here. Some mystery, some unexplained events: yes. Ghosts, or supernatural entities: no.

In sum, still an (quite) enjoyable book. Though I am not sure whether or not I am going to read her next one…

Read: The Plantation

Even though I seem to always complain about Kuzneski’s writing style I read on and on. Now, I have read his first, originally self-published, novel The Plantation. This book got him the deal for all the sequels he wrote.

And so far, I have to say, it is his best. OK, there is one appearance of the annoying “little did he know” phrase. Apart from that, the novel has everything I look for when I am interested in a little diversion from my normal work. The plot is quite original. Kuzneski is not pushing the limits too far (as he is in danger to do or is doing with his sequels), the story and characters remain rather credible.

I have the distinct feeling that Kuzneski took a rather long time writing and polishing this novel while he rushed to finish the sequels.

Read: The Secret Crown

Darn. I just noticed that I skipped a book in a series. I hate when that happens. I prefer to read a series in the right order. Even though, here, it does not really matter.

There are still the same main characters; there is not much development: neither the characters nor the general plot are much different from the novels before The Secret Crown in Kuzneski’s Payne & Jones series. While Kuzneski finally got rid of the foreshadowing device his characters are still engaged in their stereotypical banter. Kuzneski should put a little more effort in the dialogues.

Yet, the novel is entertaining and, indeed, at about the same level of the earlier Cussler novels with respect to literary quality (it’s low-brow entertainment to relax and unwind and that’s why I read them) and bloodshed. The background story is moderately well research. The only annoying mistake that slipped through fact-checking concerns a modern day detail. Berlin Tegel is not the largest German airport, Frankfurt is.

Read: The Sign

Given Raymond Khoury’s earlier books The Last Templar and The Sanctuary, The Sign is surprisingly secular. It still features a religious theme: A mysterious sign heralding impending doom. Yet, there is nothing really mysterious or rather mystical about it. It is part of an elaborate scheme to alert mankind to the dangers of global warming. At least, that were the original intentions of some of the involved people. So, the plot is ok, and the author’s agenda pretty clear. The do-gooder theme gets a bit laid on thick after the first half of the novel, though. This is one of the two things that may interfere with a pleasant reading experience. The second disruptive factor is the not-really-credible protagonist: An ex-con turned hero. He gets shot, endures the pain, manages to perform some super secret agent stunts, and – of course – conforming to all cliches, gets the girl in the end.

Still, the book was enjoyable. The first part much more so than the last.