Comments about The Giver of Stars, part 2
When I wrote my previous post about Jojo Moyes’s book, I hadn’t finished reading it. Now I have. I enjoyed her book very much until I got to the murder, then my eyes started rolling so much that it was hard to finish reading.
People who are not mystery writers should not write mystery novels. If they want to change genres, fine, just learn something about the genre first. It seems to me that Moyes wrote herself into a corner and did not know how to finish The Giver of Stars, so she threw in a murder. A totally preposterous murder.
A book as a murder weapon supposedly used to bash in the back of a man’s head. Little Women, wielded by a woman. I supposed it could happen with a 759-page hardback book. And then this smart woman goes off and leaves the book behind to incriminate herself. Uh-huh.
We’re supposed to believe that a backwoods hillbilly wanted to read Little Women and when he finished it, conscientiously set off on foot, on a snowy, icy day, set off to return the book to the library. Never mind that the story is about packhorse librarians who not only deliver books to people living in the hills of Kentucky but also pick them up a week or two later and return them to the library. Then this dedicated reader slipped on ice, fell over backward, and cracked his skull on a rock, the book flew into the air and landed on his face leaving bruises.
Months later, when the body is found, the now pregnant horseback librarian is arrested and held in jail for months where she eventually gives birth and months after that is put on trial. The motive for the murder is supposedly a blood feud that has lasted for generations and was started by the victim’s “descendants” (you read that right) that’s lasted for generations.
I hate it when writers, for the sake of not spoiling their story, make smart characters behave stupidly. I’m a layman but I could have presented a better case for the defense than the lawyer in the book. Anyone could have been out in the woods. Anyone could have wielded the blunt instrument. The woods are full of rocks. But does the lawyer make that argument? Of course not. The book would have ended a hundred pages sooner if he had. No dramatic childbirth in the county jail. No heroic librarians striving to save their friend. No self-sacrificing suspect sending away her baby and child so they won’t be tainted by association with her.
I won’t reveal the outcome of the trial, but you can probably guess.
There’s a very broad hint that the murder victim committed incest and impregnated his own daughter. Talk about a motive for murder, but that’s glossed over. Both his daughters are too mousy to commit homicide.
Will I be reading any of Moyes’s other books? I’m not sure but probably not. There are real mystery writers out there whose books I enjoy.
Moyes isn’t the only author who’s fallen into the trap of thinking that including a mysterious death in her story is a breeze. Elin Hilderbrand fell into the same trap in two of her books, The Castaways and The Perfect Couple.
The Castaways is the most annoying of the two. A married couple drowns under mysterious circumstances. They are part of a group of friends who are so irritating that I figured that they must have drowned themselves just to get away from these people. In between long, overly-detailed narratives about the history of these relationships, the local Nantucket cops investigate the deaths. The case comes to nothing.
The same cops investigate the drowning in The Perfect Couple. Once again, the case comes to nothing but the reader has wasted hours trying to figure out which of the annoying cast of characters “done it.”
Not that talented mystery writers don’t mess up. They do, especially if they’ve been writing best-selling books for years, have run out of ideas, and are now too big to edit.
It pays to read the blurb. Read reviews, not just newspaper reviews. As far as I know, there are no more Dorothy Parkers, who wrote things like, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” Read reviews by fellow readers. Don’t read just the five-star reviews. Read the one and two-star reviews. They can save you time and money.