Jan Dynes,
(#1 Book, 2001)

Jan Dynes may have a dynamite story to tell, but she has to learn to write better in order for me to finish it. I saw plenty of "wow" reviews for Refraction and thought I'd check it out. After starting it I kept thinking, "It has to get better." It didn't.

People live in an "Ozzie and Harriet type subdivision." All secrets are "dark." Smiles are "engaging." Tears "flow freely." Mansions are "spacious." An outgoing woman is "bubbly." The author uses the adjective "very" constantly, always a bad sign. Adjective upon adjective with weak, hackneyed verbs.

But the worst is that the author violates the cardinal writing rule of "show, don't tell." The author's narrative voice completely takes over, telling us everything, that this is a good person, that is a bad person, this other one is a suspicious person. Some authors do this and get away with it, most notably Ruth Rendell. But Rendell's sour wit and dryly arch attitude make up for it.

Also, the two-page dedication does not seem professional.

Sorry, this book is lame. The author needs to read some Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, David Goodis, Harlan Coben and Elmore Leonard. Also, check out Lawrence Block for the sheer elegance of spare writing.

review by
Dave Sturm

31 October 2009

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