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Fear Itself

Fear Itself - Martin Prendergast Preview Review

I see a lot of GR ads for books that have high ratings and enthusiastic reviews. ("Couldn't put it down!") I go ahead and read the first few pages and see that this is anything but four- or five-star prose. I think to myself, "I should read this book and write a review pointing out all the spelling errors/punctuation errors/horrifying prose/general badness this book contains. However, I barely have time to read all the good books out there. The lie will have to live on."

Finally it occurred to me that, provided I pointed out exactly what I'm doing, it would be perfectly fair to write a review based on the sample pages available.

This is one such review. (My first, to be exact.)

Up to that point I thought our conversation was informal; an effort to fill in some details before putting Catherine's case to bed.

Ruh-roh. A semicolon where a comma or a dash ought to be. That's a pretty common rookie-writer mistake. Doesn't kill my interest, but it's a distraction, and not a good sign.

I felt the muscles in my face clench in anger, "What's wrong with you?"

Well, there's that comma we needed a minute ago.

"You think that I killed my wife?" I felt my jaw slacken and my wrinkled brow un- furl, "She died in her sleep."

Yes, "unfurl" is hyphenated here. Yes, there's an unnecessary space (and, immediately following it, a comma where a period ought to be). Yes, that's a typesetting error nobody bothered to correct, followed by a comma splice. Yes, I have a bad feeling about this.

Catherine was Beautiful even in death.

"Hey, writers – here's a handy tip! If you want to keep your readers' interest, just throw in some random capitalization!" (Said no writing handbook ever.)

I choked on the word "die" and tears filled my eyes as the memory of Catherine's face appeared in my mind.

For heaven's sake, where else would a memory appear? Your elbow? Your back pocket? Either remember her face, or have her face appear in your mind.

Really not feeling good about this.

The interrogation room was dead silent outside of our breathing.

I just read this line to my 16-year-old son.

"Uh, no."

My response exactly. This is trying to sound clever, and it's failing.

He placed his face in front of mine, his nose to my nose. I backed up slightly, confused by his invasion of my personal space, but he pursued me and came within a fraction of brushing his eyelashes against my own.

So. Much. WRONG.

There is exactly NO need to explain why you would back away from somebody shoving (not "placing") his face into yours. And if he's "pursuing" you to the point where your eyelashes are getting to know one another, there's no way you're not making physical contact. Like, kissy-face contact. (And "a fraction" of WHAT? An inch? My sanity?)

"How old is your daughter?"
"Seven." I tried to steady my breathing to ease my anger.

They're still smoochy-face close at this point, btw.

"Kind of late in life to start a family, no?"

Actually, it would be pretty early for a girl to start a family at the tender age of seven. Also probably biologically impossible.

Oh, wait – you mean the guy? I wouldn't know. Neither now nor at any point in the sample pages am I told how old he and/or his wife are. The author has all the time in the world to splain why a man would back away from another man's aggressive eyelashes, but not a New York nanosecond to spare when it comes to stuff the reader can't figure out for herself.

He turned away from me and took a few steps before turning around, "Was your wife happy about raising a child so late in life?" "Catherine loved Sarah."

Moar comma splice action. Plus multiple people talking in the same paragraph. Joy.

I wiped my eyes on the sleeve of my shirt, "No." I lied.

This book has so many comma splices, it ought to be part of the title. Or at least the subtitle. All comma splices, all the time. And that period after the "No" just adds insult to injury. Was he playing with punctuation dice while he wrote, and just left commas and periods wherever they happened to fall? And where can I get some of those dice for myself? They sound like fun.

"Unless... do you mean..." I paused deliberately, "Amber Havisham?"
"You tell me?"

Moar punctuation dice!

Do me a favor. Say "You tell me" out loud in your best tough-guy cop voice. Did it come out with a question mark at the end? (Hint: It didn't.) My son just tried saying it with a question mark at the end, and he ended up sounding like his Italian great-grandfather twenty minutes after he got off the boat. It was adorable, but it's not how people familiar with the language talk.

"Your cell phone?" "Yes, my cell phone!"

Moar different people talking in the same paragraph! (There has to be a name for that. Somebody find out the name for that. Thank you.)

"What if I told you she was in Cleveland last night?"
His words sucked the saliva from my mouth.

...and I'm out. Just – ew.

This book's premise was intriguing enough that I wanted to give it a try. The narrator is accused of murdering his own wife, and comes to believe that his seven-year-old daughter is the real culprit. I could put up with some lackluster prose to find out whodunit. I can't deal with the constant punctuation errors and aggressively bad writing.

Will not purchase; will not put on wish list; will reject if offered as a gift; will not check out from library; will not finish reading.