07 February, 2013


Susy Gage

The next in the series of Early Reviewers' books that i have had from or through Library Thing, all of them lately being e-books rather than real ones, this has been a struggle to read. Partly that struggle has been because of the format: It is nearly a year since i started reading on my kindle, and i shall probably write a snippet about the experience in the nearish future ~ certainly i have been thinking about it recently ~ so i'll not go into it here.

The novel is about a mystery at a university and one of its constituent parts in California in the present day. I suppose that there might be interest here for graduate students at or graduates of such an institution, but i find it difficult to think that there is any for people who do not fall into either of those rather limited categories. Buried, somewhere, deep within the book, is a good mystery plot, i'm quite sure, begging to be dug out and told; unfortunately, this is not the book which told that story effectively.

The plot itself is confusing, difficult to follow, with information either thrown at the reader in apparently no order with no real purpose, or withheld grudgingly leading to non-comprehension. Indeed, having finished the book, i would be hard pressed to actually define the mystery, count the murders ~ or deaths, not even sure if they're the same thing ~ or retell the main events.

Some of the characters do have their own personalities, but they are not attractive to read about, and the traits given them do not always make sense within the purposes of the narration; the lead character, for example, Lori Barrows, eschews motorised transport methods, but no real reason is given, either within her life or the needs of the plot, and since two of the places she has lived are the hills of LA and the snows of Quebec, bikes and roller blades are not the most useful tools for her.

A further problem i had with the book, alluded to above, is that of location. Because all the characters are on the staff or student body of the Superior Technological Institute very much of the language and the activity revolves around it or is tied to it, and i found this distracting. A simple example: “Buboes” is a word used for certain students; it may have been defined, but if so it was in such a way that i do not have that definition, all that i have is what i have gleaned from the usage (which is, of course, really how we learn words) by which i can say that they are of a lower class or grade, that they are more “cannon fodder” than anything else; what i cannot say is whether they are undergraduates or graduate students, or anything else about them. I find it discomforting that an author can allow this to happen in her book.

Overall, and in the end, by my sole criterion this novel is not a success ~ i will not read another book based simply on the fact that it has the name Susy Gage on the spine. This is unfortunate as i really believe that she could probably write very well, and i might then miss out. The difficulties of A Slow Cold Death, however, have been too great. If this is her first published novel, as i suspect, her editor or publisher did not do her any favours in letting it be; she would have been better served had they said, “Susy, you have great potential; now put this to one side, and go write your second book” or possibly, “There's something here, Susy, but it needs serious editing; here's a list of potential issues, come back in six months with them resolved.”

No comments: