I think with a few revisions Long Knives by Charles Rosenberg could be a fantastic book. It is not bad, but there are enough problems that I was continually distracted from the story. I really felt like I was reading a late draft rather than a final product.
First the good. The premise and plot are great. A former lawyer/current UCLA law professor is suspected to have poisoned one of her students and at the same time she is being sued for the return of a treasure map (that the student had at the time of his death and she is accused of stealing). She hires two of her former friends and colleagues to represent her. The story is engaging for the most part and, while it’s not a “can’t put it down” type book, it kept me interested through the whole 500 pages. The story was not entirely predictable and, although I guessed who had actually done it before the big reveal, I changed my mind on who could be the culprit several times (though the why was a bit odd). The grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling are excellent. There is very little foul language, and when it does appear it makes sense to the story.
But then there’s the bad. At least twice the author forgot things he had previously written. In one case, one of the lawyer friends sees her in her classroom and comments on bruises she has (from a bike accident) and then a few scenes later he greets her at his office as if he hadn’t already seen her and wants to know where those bruises came from. The same character later takes a bite from an apple and then a couple pages later starts eating his apple (again, apparently) by removing the peel. A few scenes really did not contribute to the overall story (and actually detracted from it) and could have been cut. Most of the characters were not well-formed, including the main ones. I honestly did not care if someone killed Jenna (the professor) or if she was thrown in jail and I found her and her two lawyer friends to be not so smart, even when it came to litigation. The what seemed like 987 references to drinking or making coffee drove me crazy. The scene where the title of the book appeared in the text was very awkward to me, almost like the author really liked the title and wanted to use it so much (even though it didn’t really make sense for the book as a whole) that he created an odd scene to get it in there.
Overall, I liked Long Knives well enough. I’m not sorry I read it and I didn’t quit reading before the end. I think I would like it a whole lot more if it went through a couple more revisions. I think it totally has the potential to be a 5 star book, but just isn’t as it is currently.
2 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2014: 11
Pages Read in 2014: 2527
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