I love Jeffery Deaver’s books. While he’s most famous for the Lincoln Rhymes series, I also adore his Katheryn Dance novels. A stand-alone, “The Bodies Left Behind,” was my first Deaver and is still one of my favorites. He’s one of the few authors whom I consider an “auto-buy.” So when “The October List” came on pre-order, I snapped it up. Didn’t even read the book description. Just clicked BUY and waited for it to pop up in my Kindle.
If I had taken the time to look at the blurb, I would have read, “The shocking end is only the beginning… #1 bestselling author Jeffery Deaver has created the most riveting and original novel of the year—a race-against-the-clock mystery, told in reverse. (Italics mine.)
The whole thing is told back to front. Omega to alpha. Climax to intro. Now, I like to consider myself relatively intelligent, but I could not get through this for the life of me. I started it three times and really only went back to it the last time so I could write this post. I kid you not–it was wicked hard to read. Not the actual writing, mind you. Or even the plot, once I understood the big picture. But the back-to-front construction of it defeated me.
For one thing, I couldn’t sustain enough concentration to make sense of the events. The unusual construction kept me from recognizing which clues or info I should be retaining, and I kept having to go back to the beginning (really, the ending) to look up names or events that I hadn’t realized I’d need to remember. Perhaps this would have been easier in a print book, but the e-version made it extremely frustrating.
Reading this book was work. I had to take notes! And, aside from this blog post idea, the only reason I kept at it was because this was an author I loved and I really wanted to like it.
Eventually, I realized I really didn’t care about the characters, either. Contrary to Deaver’s usual efforts, the main characters—Gabriella (a woman whose six-year-old daughter has been kidnapped for a ransom of a half-million bucks and the delivery of the mysterious October List) and Daniel (a rich and George Clooney-handsome man who first met Gabriella two days before the kidnapping and committed to helping her get her daughter back)—both came across simultaneously cardboard and melodramatic. The fact that Gabriella keeps getting distracted by moments of lust for sexy Daniel irritated me no end as well. Really? She’s gettin’ hot and distracted by “the heat of his touch on her thigh” in the midst of fleeing bad guys and trying to rescue her daughter from a crazed, ruthless kidnapper? (Italics, most assuredly, mine.)
Finally, after pushing through the first third, I gave up and, highly unusual for me, jumped to the end (beginning) and discovered—in true Deaver fashion—a twist that I would not have been able to have imagined. Although I still hated the structure, what I learned at least reassured me that Deaver hadn’t completely lost his mind. In fact, in its own way, this particular story was peculiarly right for being told in backwards progression. It didn’t make me like it anymore, though.
So, do I have a moral for all this? Not really. Except … maybe…while hindsight is 20-20, it’s not a great way to write a book.