Saturday, September 7, 2013
An Eye of Death - George Rees
2012; 270 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : It varies. Overall Rating : 4½*/10.
Poor Mother Wingfield has been killed. In a locked, closed room. One of her eyes was gouged out. There are no other wounds on her. And no murder weapon.
Thomas Dekker would like to find out who did it and how it was done. But his interest is purely academic. He’s a playwright, and wants to use the case as the plotline in his next play. Maybe then he’ll achieve the lofty status – and income – of his contemporary rivals, Christopher Marlowe and Will Shakespeare.
But not everybody is thrilled with his nosing around. Someone powerful wants to see his body floating in the Thames.
What’s To Like...
The setting – greater London in 1592 – is well-crafted. George Rees provides plenty of details to make you feel at home with the then-&-there. The theater portions felt quite real. The likelihood of being jailed, put in the stocks, or hanged seemed excessive, but I can’t say it’s inaccurate. The prominence of the plague is certainly correct.
The main characters are developed nicely. The secondary ones - and there are a slew of them - are detailed enough to make each one unique. There is some entertaining wit and humor sprinkled in, along with some romance. The breeches-less encounter with a bull is a riot. But this is not a cozy; there are adult situations and the F-word appears a number of times.
Unfortunately, An Eye of Death has some vexing problems. To wit :
Formatting Issues. Even by Kindle standards, this was bad. Quotation marks appearing haphazardly in a dialogue, sometimes one apostrophe ('), sometimes two (“). Random insertion of Shakespeare in places he obviously wasn’t. And a plethora of the esoteric “œ”, which almost always forebode the ensuing passage would be incomprehensible.
Genre-Hopping. The book's cover touts it as a Murder-Mystery, but only the very beginning qualifies. It quickly turns into Historical Fiction, which I found to be its finest phase. Then it switches to Intrigue, followed by Action-Adventure. It finishes up being a Puzzle novel, as our hero finally solves the closed-room enigma.
Continuity Issues. A natural consequence of the genre-hopping. At one point, a severed head rolls out on stage, but if an investigation followed, the reader isn't given the details. Towards the end of the book, the scene shifts to France for a prolonged battle sequence which has absolutely no bearing on the plotline. Dekker’s “solution” to the puzzle was unconvincing, and to me personally it suggested suicide (albeit a grisly one) rather than murder.
Ending. The tension never builds, so the ending falls flat. The political tide shifts in England, and all the intrigue evaporates. Frankly, I was perplexed at Dekker’s attitude towards the murder-puzzle. He had only an academic interest. Why not just contrive a solution himself, and avoid all the personal peril?
Kewlest New Word...
Cynosure (n.) : a person or thing that is the center of attention or attraction.
If snow be white, why then...”
“her breasts are dun,” completed Emilia getting into the coach and sitting opposite me. She had sent her maid on an errand. “You read poetry, I see.”
“I write it too,” I replied with as careless an air as I could muster.
“Ah, a poet. That fits with the being chased by bailiffs. Poetry and poverty go together like sweetmeats and toothache.” (loc. 248)
One evening in the Cross Keys I was eking out my tankard of ale with sips that an abstentious flea would have regarded as small while just such a pedant harangued the company about the book he was writing on English pronunciation: “God has blessed us with a beautiful language; after Greek, Latin and Hebrew, of course; a long way after. Where was I?”
“Just leaving,” suggested a man hopefully. (loc. 4727)
An Eye Of Death sells for $2.99 at Amazon. ANAICT, George Rees does not have any other books available there..
“People can do without plays, but they’ll always need shoes.” (loc. 2616)
The above-mentioned issues made for a slow read. The amazing thing is, flawed though An Eye Of Death is, it could’ve been a very good read. Formatting issues aside, the author and the book both have great promise, particularly if the storyline confines itself to a single, predetermined genre. I’d vote for Historical Fiction.
The other option is to turn this into an Alternate History novel. Lord knows, that genre can use some fresh blood. Harry Turtledove’s Ruled Britannia (reviewed here) utilizes a related theme (the Spanish Armada conquers England), but there’s plenty of room here for a different tack. The Earl of Essex displaces the Queen. Sir Walter Raleigh displaces the Queen. Dekker displaces Shakespeare and Marlowe. The plague decimates the English population, leaving it vulnerable to an invasion by (insert nationality here – Spanish, French, Dutch, Papal, Scottish, etc.) forces.
4½ Stars. Buy the right software; choose a genre and stick with it; find some beta-readers (or hang the current ones); and recognize that half of an author's time and effort is going to involve polishing and rewriting the first draft.