Non-Review: “A Death in Eden,” Paul J. Heald

NOTE: Review book provided by author


I do a “non-review” when I couldn’t finish a book. I won’t review it on Amazon or GoodReads, but I don’t mind telling you here why I chose not to finish. If there’s one thing I’ve found over the years, it’s that there are too many good books to spend my time finishing a book that I can’t get into. Death in Eden: A Mystery was recommended to me based on the fact that I enjoy J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts’s “in death” series. That may have set my expectations too high.

Death in Eden introduces us to Stanley, a sociology professor without tenure (naturally) who’s decided to spend part of his upcoming book’s space on women in the adult film industry. Eventually there’s a murder, and somehow it falls to Stanley to prove his old school friend’s innocence–by finding the real killer (of course). I read more than half of the book before giving up.

It is possible to turn such a simple list of events into the entire first half of a book, but the characters, events, and window-dressing have to be damn fine to pull it off. In my opinion, that didn’t happen here. The characters are fairly universally unlikable. There’s little tension involved; the proper pacing for a thrilling mystery just isn’t there. It feels as though the author is excited about all this adult film industry detail and is therefore pouring out those details willy-nilly, without much thought for rhythm, dialogue, and so forth. He also handles conversations in a manner that undercuts any interesting pacing: he bounces back and forth between using actual dialogue, and simply summing up conversations or parts of conversations with narrative. Chunks of the narrative are devoted to info-dump monologues. It robs those conversations of any momentum they might have. (Sure, it’s possible to sum up conversations and have it work, but it needs to be an occasional thing and carefully used.)

As much as I hate having to NR a book that an author asked me to read, there are just too many books on my plate to spend more time working my way through material that doesn’t interest me.

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