Oh, wow. I am terrified to pick up another book. You know how it’s said, “Good things come in threes”? Well, I’ve heard that said about bad things as well. Last week I read three excellent books (Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens, Buying a Home – The Missing Manual, and Newspaper Blackout). I have just now completed the second of two not-so-excellent books, and can’t imagine the horrors of my next experience.
Don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said for books (like movies) that are so bad they are hilarious. There’s a certain sick fun in reading pitiful plots, nonsensically narrated scenarios, torturous twists, unlikely outcomes, and cloddish characters. All is lost, however, when the mechanics and technical aspects are dismally abused or neglected.
Expecting to love Bradley Daggers Investigates: The Case of the Great Granny, I anticipated a seedy Sam Spade — and was astounded instead by a textbook. Halfway through The Case of the Great Granny, I was certain when I came to the end I would find a chapter that began, “Dear Proof-reading Student, Congratulations, you have completed your first assignment.”
Generally, I avoid commenting on typographical and grammatical errors. Every time I do, I seem to commit a few myself. I also apply different standards for reviewing. For example, a children’s board book is not expected to meet the same criteria as a New York Times best seller in hardcover. A self-published, pulp fiction paperback would not be expected to meet those standards either (although some do). There are some criteria that all books should meet, mostly involving mechanics and that old bugaboo, grammar.
Author Thomas Eammon Pisano (publisher of more than a few books and novels) has given us a character to love, Bradley Daggers. Daggers is an experienced police detective (now a lieutenant) who hates his job, the traffic in L.A., and the weather in L.A. He’s gruff and hardhearted, that is until he turns suddenly sloppily sentimental.
Sloppy sentiment is bearable, sloppy proof-reading and editing are not. The art of punctuation is not one that Pisano practices. He is particularly unfamiliar with the use of the comma, semi-colon, hyphen, and apostrophe. He makes up for his lack of commas and semi-colons by sprinkling them in inappropriate places (e.g., “’Daggers, this Hoover case is, it solved yet?’”; “It was favorable that her, now dead husband, Clarence had taught her to hunt with these high powered rifles”; and “I finally came to the conclusion that Mrs. Hoover was not killed by the thief it; was an unfortunate miscalculation.”)
The absence of hyphens and Pisano’s practice of breaking compound words down into two words change the meaning of passages that the reader must reread in order to grasp what the author is saying. Elegant words are used inelegantly and incorrectly, and it appears that Pisano is over-reliant on his spell-checker, which ignored when he used “anti” for “ante” and “psyche” for “psych” (hey, it happens to us all!).
Compounding all of this are incomprehensible sentences (e.g., “It was as a matter of fact my watching the driver’s hands as he approached me.” Interestingly, “it” in this context does not seem to refer to anything preceding this sentence.).
Choosing to tell a story as a first-person narrative may be a good way for a writer to disguise inadequacies. The character telling the story might be a “diamond in the rough” with an emphasis on rough. But on page 96 of this 144 page opus, suddenly the author switches to third person, then switches back and forth, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph. The reader begins to suspect that the author is actually a twelve-year-old who is not yet comfortable with writing in the English language.
Perhaps some of this would be acceptable (I don’t know how) if the writing itself wasn’t ludicrous (“Her screams and pants were muffled by the soft stereo music playing in the background.” Really?). In a laugh-filled description of a sexual encounter, Pisano writes, “She found her way down to my turgid gland.” That might work in a satire.
Now, about the story… There are far too many characters (the initial victim was murdered three times in an hour by three different perpetrators), the police procedures are a joke, and Pisano is inconsistent with his characterizations and plot. There is a ridiculously constructed love story that is, at best, ludicrous. The detectives on the case seem to repeatedly believe it’s been solved, only to re-solve it to their satisfaction ten pages later. And ten pages later. Ad infinitum.
Although the cast of characters includes some potentially interesting persons (as opposed to “persons of interest”), most are undeveloped, poorly developed, or irritating. In an effort to say something about the book that is not negative, I might mention that the cover paining is appropriately lurid. Unfortunately it is also poorly reproduced.
While bad movies and books can be great fun, writing bad reviews is not. Although a bad review may be a public service, it means the reviewer was subjected to an unpleasant experience, and those responsible will feel insulted by the reviewer — which is not always the reviewer’s intent.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Bradley Daggers Investigates: The Case of the Great Granny? No.