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The Elixir

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by Lori Soard


Amber Quill Press, 2005
Other details not yet available

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

I’m always trying to put my finger on what it is that makes a book stand out as self-published. Personally, I think we owe it to ourselves to make our work indistinguishable from the output of a big publisher. Others may well disagree.

It is certainly not bad writing that identifies this book, early in the first chapter, as self-published. Lori Soard has a fine command of language, and doesn’t succumb to the kind of sloppy English so often found in works sent to me for review. A tendency to cliché is her only failing in these early chapters, as though she had read instructions on "how to write a thriller" – the victim walking unsuspectingly to his death, the innocent suspect who finds the body and just happens to be in love with the victim’s daughter, who just happens to be the only one who believes in his innocence. This is a little too pat to be acceptable, and it would be easy to hit on that as the novel’s fundamental flaw.

However, I chose to investigate a little further, and found a book that was easy to read, and satisfying enough in terms of plot. The characters, if not exactly original, are believable. The dialogue is realistic, smart and to the point. Pace is important in a thriller, and this novel has pace. If anything, it has too much pace. By page 30, we’ve got a pretty good idea why the first victim was murdered and there has been a second murder. The two leading characters are well on their way to romance, and are also in trouble with the law. It’s now only a matter of time and page numbers before the inevitable happens.

I won’t say what the inevitable is, because I don’t want to spoil it for readers who haven’t, as I have, read so many thrillers and detective novels that their palates have become jaded. Taken at face value, this is a decent piece of writing. At times, Ms Soard’s turn of phrase achieves eloquence and borders on brilliance.

"The charcoal coffin with brass accents suited her father’s utilitarian personality…"

It is a book you can take pleasure in, as long as you don’t demand unpredictability and complex plotting. If you are looking for those features, look elsewhere, because, as thrillers go, this one is no more than conventional. But it is enjoyable, and it is effectively written. Up to now, Lori Soard has concentrated on the genre of romance, and The Elixir could certainly be read as a romance without a tinge of disappointment; a mere detective writer would have omitted the last chapter. As far as I can tell, this is Ms Soard’s first foray into the world of crime and espionage. She will doubtless go on to write more in this vein, and there is every chance that her ability to surprise the reader may be honed to a greater point.