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Success Stories

by Robert Finn

REVIEWER'S NOTE: Since the publication of this review, a revised edition of the novel has been issued, and it has hit #2 in The Bookseller's small publishers fiction bestseller list.  Congratulations to Robert Finn!

Robert Finn loves detail. After all, if a successful thriller writer like Sue Grafton can get away with it, why shouldn't someone less well known do the same? Or even more?

I reserve judgement on whether it adds something to a reader's understanding to be told that there was "red textured wallpaper" in the room on the left, or that the secretary was wearing a "dark brown sleeveless sack-dress". This is an intricate storyline, and to my mind the profusion of detail doesn't help unravel the complexities of the plot. I spent ages trying to figure out how the water from the overhead shower managed to hit Tommy in the face when he had his head bowed. But that's just me. Tommy is a martial arts expert; maybe contortionism is one of his skills.

I admit to being a pedant, and the misuse of the word "lay" three times in the first chapter almost made me put the book down for good, but I got over it - though I did laugh out loud at the use of "Mandela" in error for "mandala". Having overcome these minor quibbles, I soon settled into what proved to be rather an exciting tale of murder, mystery, and a romance that spells itself out before the hero and heroine have even met.

It didn't take me long to accept that this is one of the better thrillers I have read. More than a whodunnit, it strays into the territory of the supernatural, as David and Susan find themselves up against an adversary who is far more than the master-criminal they at first imagine. Needless to say, they have the luck of the devil in all their dealings with him. The writing continues, at times, to be self-conscious and over-elaborate, but this didn't prevent me from getting carried away, and I was halfway through the book's 400 pages before I even noticed. I kept expecting some kind of unlikely twist - you know, the best friend turns out to be the villain, something like that - but all the twists that did occur were acceptable, and didn't make me feel I had been tricked.

With a better editor, I feel, Robert Finn could easily be up there with the Thomas Harrises and Tom Clancys of this world. There is no doubt that he possesses the basic talent: the eye for a plot, the ability to characterise and reel in the reader's sympathies on the side of the good guys. Perhaps most importantly, he has imagination, and is prepared to research the background to his basic ideas. He needs to tighten up a little, to do away with some of the dialogue - though I admit I quite enjoyed the long, rambling conversations between David and his unlikely friend, Banjo - and to cut down on the verbiage in general. (That's not to say that humorous banter and meaningful philosophising don't have their place, it's simply that their place is not in a fast-paced thriller.} If he does all these things, there's no reason his next novel couldn't be a best-seller.

A word of warning to Susan, though. If you have any plans to appear in a sequel, dear, cut down on those calories!


ISBN 0 9545759 1 1
Snowbooks, 2004
411pp, paperback
Retail price 7.99

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

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