R. Scott Taylor,
Stingy Jack
(self-published, 2007)

The legendary Jack o' the Lantern of R. Scott Taylor's novel Stingy Jack may have been more interested in taking than giving, but the author obviously wishes to offer his readers a great deal. As well as tackling the history of the Irish prankster who fooled the devil, Stingy Jack follows the story of a young, modern-day thief named Adam Beesler at a major life crossroads. Romance, murder, sex and mystery are all included, and it's apparent the author wished to frame his characters in words as ambitious as they are.

Unfortunately, what this adds up to is a 300-plus-page mass of incomprehensibility. Jack's story arrives late and, while contributing the clearest sections of the plot, he remains entirely extraneous until almost the last minute when his character is thrown into the spotlight with very slight cause. Adam's history is given through randomly placed flashbacks that give information, but lacks much insight to his character. However, his current status proves even harder to follow, as numerous passages concerning his position contradict each other.

The conclusion was that Adam is a thief at the top of his game, and one of the best, in spite of being unable to handicap some simple alarm systems and making foolish blunders. Adam's love interest Clarissa begins as a sympathetic participant in the mayhem, but during the progression of their affair Clarissa's reactions simply cease to be at all plausible. Adam's arrogant, scheming mentor Nicky receives the strongest and most consistent characterization, until he also becomes muddled as a sacrifice to the twist ending.

On the other hand, the various banal locations visited by these people are represented in far more detail, with restaurants described down to their menus and outfits meticulously noted.

This riot of jumbled information appears in phrases so ostentatiously phrased that they often no longer made sense. For instance, "gracious" appears instead of "grateful," and if a word sounded better with a less grammatical ending, then that is how it was written. These existing words are bad enough, but the real travesty is that so many words failed to appear. Obviously caught up in the story, the author failed to include comments later referred to, several transitions, or any other editing in general. If this crucial element had been up to par, it may have drawn Stingy Jack out of its obscurity. As it is, this tale of thieves fails to grab hold of the attention, emotion or imagination of its audience.

review by
Whitney Mallenby

27 September 2008

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