Ed Lynskey,
Lake Charles
(Wildside, 2011)

In Ed Lynskey's Tennessee noir novel, Lake Charles, Brendan Fishback, his sister Edna and Edna's ex-husband and Brendan's best friend, Cobb, go up to Lake Charles to fish and jet ski. Soon, Edna has disappeared and as Brendan and Cobb search for her, Cobb is killed by a pot farmer armed with a crossbow. Cobb's father and Brendan's lawyer (he's out on bail, charged with murder) come up to the lake and they begin searching for Edna and for Cobb's killer. A violent, action-filled thriller ensues.

The novel has interesting characters, some emotional depth and plenty of action, but it also has a strong drawback: a prose style that causes you to periodically shake your head and say, "Huh?" Here's a sample:

My hope was to greet Edna huddled by her campfire and squeal in joy to see us.

If you read this sentence according to the rules of basic grammar, the speaker wants to greet Edna, while huddling by her campfire and squealing. Obviously, this isn't Lynskey's meaning, but that's where your mind goes. Then your mind has to correct and do a quick translation.

It's a rare writer who can't have individual sentences lifted out of his work and examined to his disadvantage. Lynskey's prose, however, abounds with this type of construction:

Though death smelled putrid, it tasted even worse.

The narrator has been eating death? Did I miss that fact as I read?

How about one more:

Famished, I made an ambulatory breakfast (a breakfast that walks around?) off the tin of sardines. Their rusty taste reminded me of human blood, and I spat out the repugnant mouthful.

Well, yes, you kind of expect a man who has eaten death to drink blood -- even if he finds it repugnant.

As I said, anyone can have the occasional groaner of a sentence, but this book is filled with them. The three examples I quoted all occur in the same scene.

If you're a reader who isn't bothered by prose that periodically strangles up your mind, you'll find a lot to like in Lake Charles. I couldn't get past the use of language.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

6 August 2011

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new