The sign said European citizens get in free, but others have to pay 3 Euros, so I told the girl I was a citizen of the world; she grinned and told me to cough up the 3 Euros.
A college student OD’s on pills prescribed by his university’s doctor. His mom protests a local drug company, gets put in jail, and is instantly hated and shunned–hence the title–by everyone, because they’re the lifeblood of the town. Seems amazing that all these supposedly religious people don’t give a damn that this kid died; all they care about is the money.
There’s a Sharyn McCrumb line about a kid having the soul of an aging Baptist minister; not this guy here. He’s the husband of the woman who went to jail, obsessed with hell. That’s all I’m gonna say about that, as I’m allergic to religion. But that’s not what the story’s about either. Those interesting topics of cultural shame, big pharma mischief, and the nature of evil were trotted out but weren’t followed up on. In the end it turned out to basically be a straightforward murder mystery where a minor character who doesn’t show up till halfway is revealed to be the bad guy.
At the beginning the writing was simplistic, with my pet peeve of far too many unneeded “began” and “start.” It got better, but there was never any smoothness to it. In addition to the hanging plots, I was not happy with the way her “vision” told her who did it, or how the villain cracked. Not horrible for a first effort, but plenty of room for improvement.
A particularly brutal serial killer hunts victims on dating websites in the vicinity of Kassel, Germany. . . and I have to chuckle at the fact that I have a friend who lives there, who shares the name of one of the characters.
Okay, moment over. If you look at the master list of plots, this quickly becomes the one where the innocent man has to prove he’s not the bad guy. The serial killer is an expert hacker that not only toys with his victims but does a great frame job with emails and such. Everything is going against the protagonist; with him on the run, there really isn’t much room for character development, and with most of the scenes taking place in apartments and gyms, there wasn’t much that told me this was Germany instead of Britain or the US or even Sweden, which I think is a wasted opportunity. Some of the twists seemed a little too coincidental, and weren’t really needed, since the cops already thought it was him, but no doubt the author wanted to show even his friends were doubting his innocence. In general I liked it, but the ending left something to be desired.
3.5 pushed up to 4/5
Atlas of Cursed Places
Hard to resist a title like that, right? But there are two problems right off the bat, no future pun intended. The first is the writing style, which is overwrought and often more decorative than descriptive, like someone trying to impress with their vocabulary.
The other problem is with the title. How does one define “cursed?” If it’s meant to be literal—which is silly in itself—a lot of these entries lack a legend, someone’s death for example, to show why they’re cursed. If it’s meant metaphorically, then there must be millions of similar places in the world; why these? For instance, one of the entries is a place in Africa with tons of bats. . . this is cursed how? And what makes it more special than the similar place in Austin Texas, or Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, or Thailand? And that’s just the ones I know about.
Some of these places are intriguing in that I’ve never heard of them, yet still have only tenuous links to the topic. Princess Joanna did not wed as a child; seems like the stories are merely repeated and not researched. On the plus side, I did learn a new word I wish I hadn’t: tophet.
A lot of these supposedly cursed places are simply manmade environmental disasters: the slums of Nairobi, the islands of trash in the Maldives, the coal mines of India. Listed is a graveyard of old Soviet nuclear subs that’s stated to have 20 times the radioactive power of Chernobyl, but it doesn’t mention the spots in the old Soviet Union that are even worse. If you’re gonna say a part of Australia is cursed because it has crocodiles, then why not Florida and Louisiana and everywhere in between, as well as South America?
Pirates, really? The Nevada Triangle having 2000 planes missing in the last 50 years is intriguing, so of course you have to include the more famous one in Bermuda too. . . and yet the author mentions the now-accepted theory that there’s nothing special about the case, that statistically there haven’t been more disappearances than anywhere else. So where’s the curse?
As though the writing isn’t bad enough, the maps are useless, a case of style—not even much of that—over substance. So despite some great info and a few mysteries, like the Eilean Mor lighthouse, this was pretty damned disappointing.
1.5 pushed up to 2/5
As one might expect, this is a collection of comic strips—all Sunday editions—featuring the dog who thinks he’s a WW1 pilot trying to shoot down the Red Baron.
I probably saw all these as a kid, but I still laughed again. More than that, I was intrigued by all the research put into the situations; there were mentions of cities, battles, even going on leave, from the time period that more often than not helped the jokes.
It’s hard to imagine there are many people who haven’t heard of this comic strip, even if it was just through the holiday specials. That makes it hard to say much about the characters, the artwork, and so on. Everything here is as it should be.