I’m having a hard time as a reader these days. Part of it has to do with becoming an author, giving me less time to read for pleasure and making me choosier as well as more critical of the books I read. Part of it has to do with reading the same series authors since the 90s.
For many of them, their story-lines have become preposterous, or they’ve gotten lazy and they’re phoning it in. I can tell because I still reread the stories that made me fall in love with them. James Patterson has become the McDonalds of popular fiction, farming out a dozen novels every year to a variety of short-order writers.
I was thrilled when the library phoned to say Storm Front was in. Thank God. John Sandford is still a reliable great read. I was in the middle of listening to Rough Country on audio, but happy to set it aside for the new installment in the Virgil (that F-ing) Flowers series.
I usually avoid reading the inside flap on authors I like because I want to be surprised every step of the way. This time I was riding in the car with a friend when I picked it up, so I took a peek. Turns out, Virgil is in pursuit of an artifact with calamitous religious implications smuggled out of Israel. A DaVinci Code knockoff? Not your typical Flowers fare, but what the hey, it’s John Sandford.
So I cracked the spine and turned the pages and found: “I wrote this novel with help from my partner, Michele Cook . . .” and she’s a journalist and screenwriter who never wrote a novel before.
I tried, I really did. I made it to page 60, but then I had to stop. It’s not a bad book, exactly. The writing is competent. If this were a college student, I’d give it an A. Not because I wanted to, because they did what they were supposed to. But it lacks the heart that makes a great book live.
I’m sure many people will be perfectly happy with the book. It’s just that it’s not John Sandford, whose ball-scratching masculinity sweats from the pores of every word. Sandford put the “F-ing” in Flowers. This Virgil is a paper doll in comparison.
I’m sure the rest of the book is competent as well. It’s just that I feel like someone gave me tickets to see Elvis and I got Taylor Hicks in a white jumpsuit instead.
Perhaps it’s not fair of me to judge a book I won’t finish, but my time is valuable and so is yours. If you aren’t picky, and you aren’t a rabid Sandford fan, you will probably enjoy this book. But I don’t think Sandford did Cook any favors by putting his name on the cover and setting expectations so high.
You’ve been warned.