So, if the title of this blog post raises eyebrows, I’m not going to make excuses. I finished reading Angie Martin’s Conduit in the last couple of days, and finally finished my review. Go buy the book for your mom. Or yourself.
But before I get to the review, I want to write a little about author voice. Mine tends to be dry and sarcastic [and some things I thought terribly witty are taken as "Are you serious?" – to which I'm going to state universally: "Probably not."]
Everybody's got a voice, and every voice is different – even when we're writing it down. I'm not going to make a clever allusion to regional accents [oops, maybe I just did], but certainly, authors from similar genre backgrounds have a similar tone. This is a good thing, as readers have an expectation when they pick up a book in “their” genre, even when it's a new or unknown author.
But no matter the genre, every once in a while, someone takes a fresh voice, and sometimes, it works.
With that in mind, we come to my review of Conduit. Which starts with me:
I can’t write sweet. Or sweetly. When I try, the words pour out like thick treacle that would choke a dead cat. Many writers who attempt it suffer the same problem as I. True sweetness, on the other hand, is never heavy or cloying. It’s a dusting of sentiment with a . . . a nugget of goodness, wholesomeness . . . argh. See? I can’t even define it. Yet, I know it when I read it. It is an elusive ability, and few have it.
Ms. Martin’s got it. She’s got it going on.
“Um,” you say hesitantly, “are you sure you’re reviewing the right book? Isn’t Conduit about a serial killer?”
Yep. Sure is. And it’s a good one.
Ms. Martin’s enviable ability to write with that elusive and delicate sweet air leant to Conduit a sick twist of horror that a dryer, darker voice could never have accomplished. For the voice is virtually unaltered in the killer’s scenes, and it plays foil to the maliciousness, the callousness, the sheer evil of him.
The sweetness frosted his scenes with delicious inappropriateness.
There will be some readers who love the subplot of the romance. Did I? Sure, why not? And readers who will linger over the police-y stuff, intrigued with the details. Did I? Yep, they were pretty good – love that stuff. The psychic bits, the unravelling, all the intricate detail Ms. Martin put into this novel? Good, good, and good. These offhand statements should not be taken as indifference or dislike, because it was all great. But—
But. I couldn’t wait to turn pages to get to the killer’s scenes. Ah, David Noakes! How you entertained me!
His scenes are not salaciously graphic; the violence is blunt without lingering over the gore. There’s detachment in the author’s voice here, describing the essence of the action in perfect frugality, allowing the reader to imagine and fill in the scene. And [after getting out of bed to double-check the locks on my door], I did.
Oh, how I loved David’s mind! He admires the clean-living, the self-disciplined – preferring to kill only the worthy. And then rationalises the killing of the unworthy. His psychic abilities allow him to empathise [after a fashion] with his victims – you know, right before he kills them. He is self-congratulatory on his self-diagnosed brilliance. He is a complete egotist. And Ms. Martin wrote him as such without – as many writers are inclined to do in a mistaken attempt to prove omniscience – specifically pointing that out.
I know you want to hear a negative – after all, what sort of balanced review lacks comment on both sides of the line? So . . . Um. I can’t think of any. I mean, nothing serious - and by serious, I mean things that pulled me out of the story. That would be a bad thing. Okay, so Emily and Jake’s relationship came through as a bit of “Yar, me soul-matey!” and I’m not much of a subscriber to the soul-mate paradigm. However, I believe it was a conscious choice on Ms. Martin’s part in order to throw harsh light on David’s delusions of his style of HEA with Emily [if I can cross genre boundaries . . . ironically, of course]. It doesn’t matter whether I subscribe to the paradigm or not. It worked. So. Enough said.
The upshot? My utter fascination – and complete appreciation – for Ms. Martin’s revelation of the complex mind of a psychopath kept me endlessly entranced.
And I forgot to write: 5 sweeeeeet stars!
And I forgot to write: 5 sweeeeeet stars!
[Aside: Conduit is available today for $0.99 at Amazon, as part of Indie World Publishing and Author Services' Mother's Day Reading Blitz. Go buy the book. Read the book. And come back and tell me what you think. I could talk about it all day.]