Code of Thieves by Joyce Yarrow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Another book I got from the “Early Reviewers” program on LibraryThing which I’m grateful for, thanks. Unfortunately, “Code of Thieves” has a lot of flaws.
I’ll skip the summary which others have already done well.
The problems start with the characters – none of them, including the hero, are believable human beings. In fact, they don’t get a chance to be because the author simply lacks the talent for characterisations; let’s look at Jo Epstein herself: We don’t ever get to know what really drives her. Yes, she worries about her mother’s (relative) well-being but she never displays any real emotions. She observes her mother and everyone else but she never really seems emotionally invested – apart from the obligatory relationship she jumps into and even there we we get to see the carnal side but the emotional one is severely lacking.
Everyone in this book is, at best, very roughly outlined but there’s no substance to any of the characters. They all behave like any reader of mysteries will expect them, too. In contrast to well-written books, though, the reader won’t really care what happens to anyone – will someone die? Yes, maybe but we just observe what happens and because of the lack of emotional substance, we’re not reacting emotionally either. It’s like watching an experiment in a Petri dish for a non-scientist – one looks at it, mildly wondering what’s going to happen and forgetting about it the next day.
This book is fast-food of the worst kind – enjoying good fast-food is a guilty pleasure and we know it won’t last long. When you’ve “consumed” this book, though, there’s just indifference – it never had any real effect. It didn’t even cause any guilty pleasure of having read and enjoyed a simple, nice mystery or thriller without any real substance like Dan Brown’s books. They’re similarly devoid of substance but they’re greatly enjoyable. Yarrow’s book in stark contrast are devoid of anything endearing.
There’s more than the characters, though. The descriptions of modern day Russia seem to have originated from the yellow press – over-simplified, cliché-ridden (like the entire book) and bordering on naïveté. I can almost see Mrs. Yarrow typing away in her study after her visit to Russia, feeling like an expert now, having experienced “lumpy beds and bland food” as she tells us in her interview. (In which she praises Google Earth, by the way, because it helped her so much…) There’s a lot of (sub-conscious) snobbery in this book.
So, this book is a way below average mystery story. Forgettable and forgivable.
There’s one more glaring, annoying and rather unforgivable mistake the author made, though: She obviously thinks we, as her audience, are idiots who will have forgotten the beginning once we’re nearing the end of the book (she could be just realistic on the quality of her book, though).
Yarrow almost completely re-uses an entire passage of text. Since it’s from the prologue and doesn’t contain any spoilers, I’m going to quote an excerpt here:
From the prologue:
“One day Tarzan and I were in Leningrad, and as we walked past the conservatory, I told him about my training on the violin and my boyhood dream of becoming an orchestra conductor. On impulse, Tarzan decided to steal me a violin and dragged me inside. We waited outside the practice rooms and the first unfortunate student to take a break had his instrument liberated. It was a student model but to my ears sounded like a Stradivarius.”
From chapter 22:
“One day Tarzan and I were in Leningrad. We walked past the conservatory and I told him about my training on the violin and my boyhood dream of becoming a conductor. On impulse, Tarzan dragged me inside. We waited outside the practice rooms and the first unfortunate student to take a break had his violin ‘liberated.’ It was a cheap, beginner’s model but to me it sounded like a Stradivarius.”
There’s more like that but the above quotations should illustrate nicely the author’s laziness. The author, though, is not the only one who took the quick and easy route – there are a lot of typos, grammatical mistakes and other minor “technical” flaws. They’re to be expected in such a cheap publication, though.
In short: Don’t read this book. I’m giving it two out of five stars because I wanted to know how it ends – a minimally redeeming fact.
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