Dead Lemons by Finn Bell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer #1: I am a freelance editor. Typos, grammatical errors, tense inconsistencies and the like drive me nuts. So there are sections of this book that annoyed me greatly from that standpoint. No offense to Mr. Bell, but he needs an editor. All writers do, no matter how good they are.
Disclaimer #2: I was offered this book to read for free in exchange for my review. I hope you’ll see that the price of the book doesn’t affect my reviews.
That said, let’s get into the meat of my review. I initially found the flash-forwards disjointed and confusing. As the book progressed, it made more sense, but initially it’s very jarring and hard to get your footing in the timeline of the book. I know that jumping around is a common tool in an author’s toolbelt, but it takes a deft touch to make it work well. This book didn’t elevate to that level for me. Personally, I think it would have been less confusing if the chapters were only marked when the time changed significantly (jumping backwards or forwards).
Once I got past the confusion of the timeline jumps, I was really able to settle into the story. The main character’s background is slowly revealed throughout the book, so you start out with very little idea of who he is and where he came from. (And I am still confused by the fact that his country of origin is just blithely thrown in at the end so that I’m not sure if it really matters or if I even care.) Sections of the book are quite slow. I didn’t get truly sucked in until the last quarter or so of the book and then I could barely put it down because I wanted to know who did the dastardly deeds.
However, the ending hit me as flat.
For a whodunnit, there was no story arc to the real villain. A reader wants to know a character’s motivation, how they became who they are, why they did what they did. Background. Details. None of that is provided here. I feel like the character was completely glossed over, undeveloped, shallow. It made for a boring ending, quite frankly. A twist, for sure, but one that didn’t make sense. A skilled writer will leave breadcrumbs throughout the story so that the ending is a bit of a surprise at first, but then makes sense in hindsight. There’s none of that here. The author tries to explain how it comes together, but there was never enough information to make it fit.
In summary, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed because I had no idea what to expect from this author. But by the time I neared the finish line, I wanted far more satisfaction than I ultimately derived from the ending. There was a lot of build-up but no pay off. Do I feel like it was a complete waste of my time? No. Would my precious little bit of reading time been better served by a better book? Yes.