My first impressions of Linda Lavid’s new thriller, Paloma, were not entirely favourable. The
prologue, describing a woman’s desperate attempts to vanish from the sight of mysterious unseen pursuers, suffered heavily
from cliché: "Her fear slammed back into overdrive. The man! Had he somehow alerted airline personnel to detain her?"
Yet on entering Chapter 2, begun with the easy conversation between Max and his friend Reggie, we feel we
are in the company of a quite different (and far more skilful) writer. This just underlines the difficulty of creating an
effective prologue. Maybe it would have been better not to try. Maybe a prologue is in itself a cliché.
Our hero, Max Laurent, is reminiscent of Michael Connelly’s loner detective, Harry Bosch, in that he
remains in love with the same unpredictable woman years after she went out of his life. Unlike the Bosch series, this novel
is a one-off, with no previous instalments to fill us in on the reasons for his present situation. We learn Max’s history
partly from his own memories, partly from those of the eponymous heroine, Paloma. Their two accounts do not always tally;
Paloma is highly suspicious of Max, and we sense that he has not been completely honest in his dealings with her. As Max pursues
the fleeing Paloma, the action, always pacy, becomes less obscure as the development of their former relationship is gradually
spelled out. The scene in the Catoni diner is particularly effective, its heightened tension combined with subtle clues that
all may not be quite as we have previously assumed.
Whilst I don’t have a high opinion of large commercial publishers, an advantage of gaining a contract
with one is that they can afford to employ editors. Paloma would benefit from a good editor, one who could get rid
of some of the idiosyncrasies of style ("Paloma leaned against the wall and slunk to the floor"), to cut out sentences
like "Relief washed over her", and to tighten up in general. One technique I would favour would be the removal of fifty per
cent of the rhetorical questions that jam the flow of Linda Lavid’s really rather clever narrative.
Ms Lavid is a capable author, but it is not denigrating to suggest that she needs help to become another
Michael Connelly or Robert Crais. All too many self-published authors do not have the basic wherewithal to benefit from professional
advice; all too many refuse to accept constructive criticism. I would love to see Linda Lavid taken up by a publisher that
can give her the final push she needs to make her a best-seller. If that entails a few refinements to her writing style, so
be it. We all have to start somewhere.