Friday, August 17, 2012
For what we hoped would be a fun summer read our book club selected a mystery set in the commercial fishing industry of Astoria, Oregon. A Killing Tide is the first book in the Columbia River Thriller series written by P. J. Alderman.
Regrettably, some of us found the writing clunky and full of cliches -- and the solution less than mysterious.
As best we could determine, this book was Alderman's effort to transition from romance writing to mysteries. Unfortunately, the romance was the worst part of the novel with its strained attempt to create tension between the pair and the requisite bedroom scene full of trite, overdone descriptions. Considering the main character had undergone a bruising encounter with an intruder only hours before the steamy sexual encounter, we found the whole scene hard to believe.
That said, we thought the descriptions of Astoria and its environs were well done, as were the scenes set on the boats. The Columbia River bar is one of the most dangerous locations in the world to navigate and these scenes made for white-knuckle reading.
The mysterious activity that resulted in a murder and arson was fairly easy to guess, and I think all of us knew whodunnit far before the villain was revealed. The characters were a bit stereotypical: the big city cop (or this case arson investigator) who retreats to a small town to escape his past, the gorgeous blonde with an independent streak, the police chief more interesting in an arrest than locating the real murderer, etc.
We all thought the author missed several opportunities to enrich the story. Kaz (Kasmira) Jorgensen and her brother Gary are twins who lost their parents when they were only teenagers. The special relationship of twins and the effect of their parents' death in a boating accident that only Kaz survived were not developed to any depth. The widow of the murdered crewman and their cancer-fighting son might have made for a heart-rending subplot. A plot development involving the mayor seemed dropped in at the last moment and not set up well earlier in the book.
Alderman did keep the pace moving and the stubborn, strong-willed Kaz was anything but a passive heroine. But like the characters in a B horror movie, her survival smarts were set aside for the purposes of plot.
One can only hope that the editors at Bantam Books have improved Alderman's Port Chatham books (her other mystery series). Aside from the Astoria setting, I don't think any of us would recommend this book.
Our next read is In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed. The memoir about life in Saudi Arabia for women should be an eye opener.