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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Artist by Eric Drouant--A Thriller Plagued by Errors and Missed Opportunities

Artist seemed as if it had a great deal of potential when I first started to read it.  The eyes of the woman on the cover just drew me in to this crime thriller, and the letters CLV on her forehead intrigued me.  I wanted to know what these letters meant.  I am reviewing this book for The Bookplex.



This the third book in a series devoted to Cassie Reynold, who has the paranormal gift of remote viewing. Since I hadn’t read the first two books, I would have been interested in seeing a sample of Cassie’s gift in action.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.  There is a reasonable explanation for Cassie avoiding the use of remote viewing within the context of this plot.  It was necessary for pragmatic reasons on her training assignment whose purpose was to develop the more conventional skills of law enforcement officers.   I understood that, but I was nevertheless disappointed. 

Although I did find Cassie sympathetic for most of the book, I thought she did get too intensely involved in the serial killer case over the course of the narrative.  In fact, she definitely seemed out of control toward the end of the book.  If I were her handler, I would have grave doubts about her.  She could very easily go rogue, and her paranormal gift might not be enough of a justification for retaining her as an agent.  Perhaps prolonging her training could settle her down.

There was also a very serious problem with the professional qualifications of the serial killer.  He is supposed to be an academic in the history field, but he confused two well-known figures in his period of specialization.  The character is thinking about artists being unable to survive by art alone, and said to himself that  Michelangelo had to make his living designing machines and weapons. Although Michelangelo was a military engineer, he isn't known for making use of this skill consistently to supplement his income.    Although he did design fortifications for Florence, (see military his other architecture projects weren't military. It was Leonardo Da Vinci who designed machines and weapons for military purposes throughout his career to  maintain his usefulness to the rulers who were his patrons.  I would think that many readers would notice this discrepancy.  For this reason, I don’t find the serial killer credible as a history instructor.  His personal background seemed fairly typical for serial killers in crime thrillers.  Yet if a character is supposed to be established in a particular profession, then he must be convincing in that role.

There was one police procedural mistake, and an instance of an experienced police officer reacting like a rookie in an exchange of fire.  It would have been more believable for Cassie to have had such a reaction.  She was the one who was the rookie.  In addition, I didn't believe that an undercover officer who was a recovering alcoholic could sustain a cover as a homeless alcoholic. The character says that he pours cheap wine over himself to maintain his cover.  This should have triggered a relapse into dependence on alcohol. This character played a minor role, but an author who wants to be well-regarded needs to ensure that every character is equally plausible. Drouant needs to understand more about the psychology of addiction before he decides to include another addict in recovery in a book.

Artist is supposed to take place in New Orleans, but there was relatively little sense of place.  There were occasional superficial references to New Orleans culture, yet I didn’t feel that I was in New Orleans when I was reading this book.  A reference in this novel to a shed underneath a house sounded extremely unlikely since most of NOLA is below sea level, though it might be possible if the house was elevated. The "raised basement house" with the "basement" at ground level is a distinctive feature of New Orleans architecture. (See Row of "Raised Basement" Houses .)  New Orleans is a city set apart by its special place in history,the arts and geography.   Drouant's narrative should have made more use of its unique attributes.  I felt that this particular story line could easily have taken place in any American city. 

There were fifteen copy reading errors in this book.  Two of them occurred in the same sentence.  There was also one example of poor sentence structure.  A writer needs to keep track of the subject of a sentence while composing it.  A policy of limiting sentence length would make this task easier.   The author should definitely have had this novel professionally edited.  Errors distract readers causing them to be less involved in the book.

Although the plot of Artist was well-paced, the flaws that I’ve enumerated above outweighed this one strength for me.  For this reason, I can’t recommend Artist to other readers.  I hope that future books by this author will show improvement.


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