Monday, October 22, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You, by Iris Johansen

This last time I read a book by Ms. Johansen, back in 2008, I didn't care for it much but considered it well written.  Since then either my taste in writing has become more refined, Ms. Johansen's writing has severely declined in quality.   Either way, I would not recommend this book.

Important message to readers:  this experience confirms my suspicion (which I mentioned recently in another review) that you can not trust five star reviews on Amazon!   The one star reviews, however, seem quite trustworthy.    At the date of writing this blog post, there are 31 Amazon five star reviews out of 68.   48 are either five or four star.   Only seven are one star reviews.  So 46% say excellent, 71% say great, and only 10% say trash.

Yet this book clearly deserves no more than one star.   I'll quote from the first one star review I come upon, titled "Save your money," the reviewer continues, "The story line is weak, the dialogue is repetitive and the characters are one dimensional. I started reading and by page 50 was scanning, halfway through I was just reading every other paragraph just to get it done."    This is dead on accurate.

In contrast, the first four of the five star reviews all feel fake.  Or perhaps written by folks whose sense of good fiction differs rather dramatically from mine. 

It was a chore to keep reading beyond even the first few pages; I did so out of pure stubbornness.  And perhaps masochism or self loathing.  Really, it would take psychoanalysis to determine why I didn't return this book to the library after just four or five pages.

You probably want some specifics to support my rantings.   The hero is rude, self focused, and addresses every topic with repetitive whining.   Consequently the dialog is stilted, unnatural, and annoying.   The plot holes are massive and while generally forgivable in a spy thriller, in this book they are just irritating.  

You also might be wondering:  for such an unsatisfactory read, why so much effort panning the book?  Why not just say how bad it is and move on?    The reason is simple:  I was pleasant in 2008 and ended up wasting time four years later.   Venting this way should keep me clear of Ms. Johansen's writing forever.

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