by Molly Greene, @mollygreene
I love a good mystery, but I’m a picky reader due to impatience, a short attention span, and acquired proofing skills that make editing boo-boos and craft-type missteps leap out. If the author doesn’t snag me in the first few pages, I won’t continue. If they don’t hold my attention after that, I won’t finish. Plus, I’m always editing in my head as I read, a pesky addiction. Arggh!
Compelling characters, great writing, and an interesting story line make these distractions go *poof,* but can be hard to find. So I’m constantly watching for author recommendations, reading book reviews, and trying new authors. Here are a few titles I’ve recently taken for a spin. I’ll begin with my imperfect favorite.
This is Book #1 in The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series by self-published author Dawn Lee McKenna. Picture me ecstatic in the very first chapter of what proved to be a fab book overall. McKenna caught my attention immediately with an intriguing plot, great characters, humor, dialogue, excellent plot tension and writing. Even though it was a cliffhanger, Low Tide is the best indie/self-published book I have ever read. I wanted more!
Alas, I felt that the next three books were not as excellent as the first. I read them all, though, because I was so connected to the characters I had to learn what happened …and you will, too. My hope is that the first four books are eventually edited down to two, with a solid conclusion for each. Watch for author McKenna – she’s a rising star!
Pros: The plot is different and the writing good. Cons: Too much internal narrative, I prefer strong female protagonists and wanted to slap this one more than once, and a couple of plot points were not resolved well enough to have passed the scrutiny of my beta-readers (see if you can find them). Still, I enjoyed it and I loved the very clever twisty ending.
In this trad-published novel by author John Lescroart, I counted no fewer than four POV changes in a single scene, which I assume were not planned because the whole book wasn’t set up that way. My beta readers would have slapped me for that. There was also too much backstory presented way too early, all about uninteresting characters who seemed to have nothing to do with the plot. I found Lescroart’s narrative difficult to follow. Come on, Big 5. Don’t you have highly paid editors who handle that sort of thing? I didn’t finish, and I won’t be reading another by this author.
This is the first of author Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books I have ever read. I am not typically a military character aficionado, and I abhor graphic blood and gore. Even so, halfway through this novel I asked myself, Where have I been? I was delighted, the way any avid reader feels when we find a new (to us) author with a big backlist.
Pros: The few sex scenes were few and extremely well handled. Minimal-to-no bad language, loved the Reacher character, and Child writes the best dialogue ever. Fellow authors, read Lee Child to see how it’s done. Cons: More blood and death than I typically want, but handled in a way that didn’t turn my stomach – until the end. I may grow weary of the gore mid-series, but for now I’m all in.
Readers, what’s more compelling for you: great writing, great characters, or a great plot? Which of these must be present before you’ll truly enjoy and/or finish a book? Which will you overlook if your most important choice is there in spades? I’ll start: for me, it’s all about the writing.
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