Scottish Rite by Stephen Penner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hmm, well, yes, I'm torn over this book.
The overall plot isn't bad, I enjoyed the fast-paced climax and I really liked the character of Maggie Deveraux, she's believable and fiesty and has just the right amount of getting-into-trouble instincts to make her a perfect accidental sleuth.
However, there were a few things that got in the way of the plot for me, hence the not quite perfect rating.
1/ There was, from time to time, a tendency to overwrite and over explain some things - as I once read somewhere, you have to sometimes leave your reader the ability to make their own mind up about the motives of your characters. This messes with the pace a lot and the book took an awfully long time to get going.
2/ Sometimes the author slipped into omnipotent info dump, usually when describing a location, e.g. when talking about the University of Aberdeen, there was a long section on the fact that it had three campuses and where they were located around the city - a brief description from Maggie's POV would have been much better than the general information list. These info dumps were unnecessary and need editing out of the manuscript, since Stephen does a perfectly good job of describing what he needs at other times.
Both of these instincts I understand well and for me as an author, they stem from trying to make sure, really make sure your reader understands what you want them to, but sometimes we just have to trust the reader and I have an editor who is very ruthless with my text.
3/ This book is set in Aberdeen, with Aberdeen police NOT American police. There are a whole bunch of terms that are totally wrong and also facts that are questionable. E.g. we don't have patrolmen, we have Uniforms (if you're in the police), or Constables if you're not. This was but one of the things that kept making me cringe in all the police scenes and kept throwing me out of the story. There were a few things non-police related as well, mainly to do with University procedures and terms, but many, many less. I wouldn't have minded so much if the police scenes had been a/ relevant and b/ convincing, but neither was the case. The whole book with a few tweaks could have been written from Maggie's POV without the lone police bits, IMHO, and it wouldn't have mattered. I did not care about the police characters, or their investigation and neither does the plot.
So, in summary, I hope I haven't been too scathing, as I said, I enjoyed the plot and I may read the next one, but this book needs a damn good edit for pace and POV and a good Brit Pick by a Scottish Beta.
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