For a reading addict, is there anything more disappointing than looking forward to the next book by a favourite author, for it to be published, to buy it, to actually put off reading it because you’re so looking forward to it, and then… and then to find it a disappointment. I guess as readers we are unrealistic – we expect authors to be top of their game all the time, every one a winner, that they never have an idea which doesn’t quite come off, that they always write in that wonderful way which carries us along through their story. It’s an unrealistic, totally unrealistic expectation, and also I guess one reader’s star read is another’s duff. I don’t mean a book which isn’t well written, I mean one which is maybe dull, or the characters don’t seem as realistic as usual and are just rather lifeless clones of previous ‘actors’ in the narrative, or the storyline doesn’t go anywhere or goes round in circles, or the zinging descriptions of scenery are just flat and lifeless, or the humour is plodding or non-existent. I don’t mean any of that or maybe I only mean a little of that. On the other hand, plenty of books I’ve really rated have been disappointing to friends and others whose comments I’ve seen, and plenty of books I haven’t enjoyed by authors I usually like have been loved elsewhere.
I’ve read two books recently by authors I really like, and they have left me feeling a little flat. Elly Griffiths is a great writer; she has written two different series of books, the Dr Ruth Galloway books – crime and archaeology combined, two of my favourite subjects, and five books set in Brighton about a policeman and his friend who is a magician. I love the Ruth books, but wasn’t so keen on the Brighton books, they just didn’t ‘click’ with me. ‘The Night Hawks’ is Elly Griffiths most recent book, and the reviews I read were all five star, and every reader loved it… I wanted to love it, but somehow I didn’t. There seemed too much back story which readers of the whole series would already know, but was probably irrelevant (in such detail) to new readers. In my opinion – and not according to other readers, I felt Elly was too indulgent with her characters, had become too close to them, too fond of them and to me they began to seem slightly unbelievable, and oh no! slightly boring! I wasn’t gripped, I was slightly confused, and to be honest, I didn’t really care about them or what happened as much as I had in previous books. The ending was also – again, in my opinion, so unbelievable that even in a fictional world I wasn’t engaged, and was also too drawn out. I know most Ruth fans won’t agree with me. However I’m going to go back and reread the others so I will be ready when the next one is written and published, and I’m sure, I hope, I will enjoy it.
The other book, a stand-alone, is by a Manchester born Australian writer Jane Harper. Her first published book The Dry was a fantastic best-selling success, and deservedly. It’s set during a dreadful draught in a small Australian town where everyone knows everyone, and I thought it was excellent, characters, plot, setting – especially the setting, it was gripping and exhausting to read – unputdownable! Her second novel Force of Nature in contrast was set in a very wet and rainy location, and again I thought it was very good in all the ways I mentioned for her debut novel – maybe it didn’t grip me quite as much, but it was a great read! Novel number three had mixed reviews, but again I thought it was very good – I don’t think I’m very good at writing about place and location, at describing scenery, but Jane Harper is. Her novel, The Lost Man, is a mystery but is also a book about a family and the complicated relationships beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary folk. I was excited at the prospect of her latest novel, The Survivors, as it’s set in Tasmania, and I looked forward to reading about a place I’ve visited and really love. Whether I was too full of anticipation, whether after her previous novels I expected something really gripping and engaging, but to me, it fell flat. Well written, but I lost track of the characters, became confused by who was related to whom, the time sequencing – going back to events from twelve years before seemed awkward, and – I hardly dare say this, it seemed laboured. It’s had excellent reviews, for the most part, although some other readers flagged with it, so maybe it’s just not for me. However, as with Elly Griffiths, I look forward to Jane’s next book!