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March 13, 2006 | by  | in Books |
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Darkhouse

This book had a Prime Reads sticker on it. Remember Prime Reads? It was an attempt to set up a kind of TV book club. I like Prime TV. They play live cricket. But I’m pretty angry about that sticker. I’d be even angrier if I’d actually paid for the book.

Okay, you want to know what it’s actually about. It’s a thriller. I’ll copy from the blurb.

“When a routine investigation comes to a violent and tragic end, Detective Joe Lucchesi takes leave from the NYPD and moves with his wife and son to a quiet village on the south coast of Ireland. They’re happy. They’re safe. And they’re about to enter a nightmare more terrifying than the one they’ve left behind.”

Some of you might be saying, sounds great! Where can I buy a copy?.

The answer is undoubtedly Whitcoulls, and you’ll be pleased to know a sequel is on the way, too. If this information has lit your face up, please stop reading after the next sentence. I don’t want anyone getting offended.

The back jacket really should have served as a warning, but woe, I failed to heed it. “Vengeance finds a home in the blackest of souls.” That’s the kind of semi-literate bullshit that serves as a voice-over for one of those CSI knock-offs. But sometimes, just sometimes, good thrillers have terrible blurbs. Just like good movies often have terrible trailers, with that horrible throaty American dude smearing his filthy larynx all over the best scenes.

In this case though, the whole book is badly written, almost implausibly so. Many badly written books at least are easy to read, but this one is so badly written that it’s actually hard to make sense of. The dialogue scrapes through the bottom of the barrel and several inches into the dirt beneath. Permit me to demonstrate: “Duke called him Boo-Hoo – during his first visits, he always tried to stop his tears. Only the name remained. The tears had dried up long ago.” Presumably an editor was involved at some point in the production, which is simply mind-boggling. I suppose they just gave up, realising that cutting bad cliché-ridden bits out would make for a very short novel.

Or maybe the advent of CSI and Criminal Minds and More Psycho Killers do Sick Things has led publishers, like Hodder and Stoughton and HarperCollins, to figure that literature in a similar vein will sell. In fact, HarperCollins offered Barclay a massive 350,000 deal (in pounds!), trying to woo him away from Hodder and Stoughton (who apparently only fronted up with a cake in the shape of a light house).

Maybe I’m being too high-brow here, expecting quality prose from a thriller, but I’ve seen it been done before – James Lee Burke can do it, John le Carre can do it… and coming to think of it, just about anyone could do it better than this guy.

Alex Barclay
HarperCollins

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