Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review #3: The Cracked Spine, by Paige Shelton

Title: The Cracked Spine
Author: Paige Shelton
Published: March 19, 2016
Page Count: 320 (Hardcover)
Price (Hardcover): ~ $19.25
Price (eBook): ~ $12.99
Format Read: NetGalley PDF
Series: A Scottish Bookshop Mysteries
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Date Read: October 27th-October 29th, 2015
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Recommendation: Undetermined (See Review)

Summary: Delaney Nichols needs some adventure in her life! She decides to take a job working for a bookshop in Edinborough, Scotland, but is surprised to find that tragedy strikes the small bookshop family nearly as soon as she joins it! Now she must solve the mystery of who killed her boss's sister.

My Thoughts: Ugh. This is going to be a tough book for me to review. I've only finished it a moment ago and I feel unfulfilled while still compelled to read any future books in this series or by this author.

I want to be fair in this review while also being honest about my reading experience. In general, I give books two ratings: A star rating and a recommendation. The former is intellectual, usually based on the book's merits (though sometimes I might push a 3-star book to 5-stars if I particularly enjoyed it, even if its merits don't deserve it). The latter is an emotional response to the book. Is it something that I'd recommend to a frient?

In this case, the writing is good and the editing excellent. In terms of actual content, the book is a solid three-stars when compared to other popular cozies that I've read. 

The book would be much more readable if Ms. Shelton wrote dialog in plain English. Instead, she attempts to imitate the Scottish accent by writing dialect (including some Scots) into the dialog. This makes it more difficult to read, to the point that I got regular headaches while reading the novel and had to put it down in order to avoid them.

Readers are capable of inventing the accent in their own imaginations and do not need the author to do it for them. (That being said, some -- such as my husband -- love dialect in dialog. I'm just not one of them, and it's considered poor form for writers, besides).

This was the biggest drawback from this novel for me, but it was far from the only drawback that I experienced.

The book starts off slowly, with too much description of "what it's like to be an American in the UK." It would seem that the author has had her own experience with this (since her descriptions were adequate), but as someone who also has lived in the United Kingdom, I felt someone insulted by Delaney's response to the cabs and the accent. For a clearly intelligent character, she struggled with culture, and I was glad when the mention of "G-Forces" (in the car) finally stopped. 

Description has its place, but this book could have been cut by about two-thirds if only the unnecessary description was removed from it to leave the reader with more story and plot.

I also found it disturbing that the clues of his mystery didn't seem to point to its conclusion. Perhaps the author is attempting to avoid the formula, but the formula works for a reason (it tends to be more engaging to the reader). If one followed clues throughout the novel to reach a particular conclusion, we were thrown off-balance with the climax (which I felt came just a bit too late in the book, feeling rushed).

My opinion is that Ms. Shelton should have focused more on the pacing of her story throughout, and less on descriptions of the Scottish countryside. If she can do this with future novels, I'd happily read the next book in this series (which leaves me feeling conflicted on whether or not I recommend the novel in the first place).

The characters were well-developed and mostly likable (one reason I so enjoy books set in Scotland and Ireland is that they remind me of my time living in the UK and how generally hospitable these people were compared to the English!), but I found it someone strange that the majority of them were described as "older." Most of the characters -- except for the protagonist and Hamlet (one of the workers at the bookstore) -- were over the age of 50. 

While I appreciate diversity in all fiction (including books and movies), I felt that this was somewhat less "diverse" and more focused on the elder characters than on a good mix of characters from various backgrounds and ages. This may be setting the stage for another book in this series, which I would find believable.

All in all, my favorite character was Elias, and I hated the way that Delaney used him and Aggie, but have to confess to having liked Delaney well enough to give another book featuring this character a shot.

I read the book in about two days, which says something for someone who usually only reads about one book every week and a half. It will be released in March of next year and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Recommended for very patient readers.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest opinion of the novel.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no! This book sounds like it has so much potential! I am a huge fan of cozies set in Scotland, like the Hamish Macbeth series. :) I will give this one a pass though.