Dead Blossoms: The Third Geisha - Richar...
*PLEASE NOTE: I DNF'd this at 45%, but thought it fair to explain why*
Book – Dead Blossoms
Author – Richard Monaco
Star rating - ★★★☆☆
No. of Pages – 370
Cover – Really nice!
POV – 3rd person, multi-POV, omnipresent
Would I read it again – Probably not.
Genre – Mystery, Detective, Samurai, Historical
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
I rated this a 2.5, but rounded it up to 3 for the potential, the decent attempt at a murder mystery and the fact that it could have been great if it didn't make me so frustrated.
Personally, I'm kind of glad that's over. I considered DNF'ing at about 12%, 25% and again at 45%, where I eventually figured that if I'd made it almost to the halfway mark, I'd done pretty well. By then, it was time to give up. By 25% it felt like all the answers were there and it was round-up time, like when Poirot gathers everyone together to reveal the murderer. Then nothing came of it. Then nothing much more happened. Someone died. More of nothing. Then finally it ended.
Truthfully, it was the writing style that didn't suit me. Omnipresent POV is hard to follow when everyone and their mother is allowed to show their thoughts, even when it's not important. It started the first two chapters with weather and frequently took a good paragraph or so to continually describe the weather throughout. Then there were the sentences that didn't make sense because they were cut off “He was pondering...” without following through to “while”, which is the natural flow. Or were overall kind of pointless to begin with “Shrugged it away.” It really didn't help that this was an unedited, unformatted ARC, because there were numerous spaces missing throughout, mashing two words together until it was difficult to figure out what was meant to be said. Punctuation was also at a 50/50 volume.
One thing I really hated was that there was a whole lot of (talking in brackets) going on. Little things that were to be explained or that should really have been put into a glossary instead – preferably at the beginning, so it could be seen, bookmarked and then referred to throughout – were all told through these brackets, particularly translations. Yet, at the same time, there was a lot of this “what would eventually become” thing going on, where landmarks were described in modern terms that these characters would never have been aware of. I'm not really sure why they were needed, since there was no effort to help us become familiar with the areas. And, if I'd known that I'd need to be a regular visitor to Japan or a student of Feudal Japan, then I'd never have opted to read it.
Often, the dialogue was hard to follow, because instead of using names, there were replacements like: the man, the beggar, the actor, the ronin even when used for Takezo himself. Add on the fact that almost every character bar Issa and Miou are male, you fall into that awful confusion of too many men talking at once, being labeled only with “he said”.
There wasn't a whole lot of characterisation, description or world-building, so it was hard to really get to know anyone or any place well enough. I had to use my imagination, other Samurai-related books and movies to picture a street or place, because there wasn't much offered from the author to really mark it out. At times there were overly floral descriptions of flowers, bedding plants etc, that were all used to show Takezo's poetic side, but they did nothing to help the reader know where we were or what it looked like.
The characters were okay. Unfortunately, most of the men were sluts who all thought with their little head, but that seemed to be the norm. And everyone Issa looked at dropped trou instantly, until she was nothing more than a twisted little enabler for their baser instincts. Miou was at least interesting – a prostitute because it was her job to be one, with Takezo because it was her job and she loved him, while being a secret enigma wrapped in mystery. Takezo, however, was your typical drunken detective, who really didn't want to be doing the job, but he was the outcast, the one with so much talent that he misused, the one that everyone feared but tried not to, the unpredictable Columbo sort, who seems too stupid to really figure anything but who manages to fool everyone anyway.
Colin, despite being right at the center of the story, only briefly features in the omni POV, while the Zulu character of uMubaya has a much bigger part, but actually does nothing. The Italian, Gentile, has a decent part, but it really only involves spying for Izu, who although a big character is rarely in it, and sleeping with Issa.
In the beginning, a lot happened at once. The Prologue set us up for the three foreigners arrival; Chapter one showed us Takezo being charged with finding them after the incident; Two went back in time to show us the incident taking place and all about exonerating Colin right away; Three began the investigation. However, it's after Three that the problem starts, because nothing much happens. There's a lot of play acting, a lot of nonsense and journeying and Takezo being a poet, but not a lot of investigation and not many answers. Yet, if you look at it, it takes until Chapter fourteen for Takezo to meet the foreigners. Then he loses them again and goes off on his own almost immediately.
Even by the time I gave up at 45% the only clues were a ring that shouldn't be there, a lot of hinky suspicion about how Hideo was acting and even more suspicion about Issa. That's it. But, quite honestly, I don't care who did it enough to read any more. I'm pretty sure it was Issa masterminding it all with Reiko as her servant, though I bet anything he thought he was the one in charge. Though the mastermind ninja, Tanba, probably had a whole lot to do with kickstarting it all.
The flashbacks were useful and well placed, but they gave a whole lot away. I would have liked to have wondered a little longer about whether Colin was guilty or not.
Dead Blossoms is a hard slog; there's a lot going on, a lot of characters and the omnipresent POV doesn't really help focus your attention on the story, because random people who are unimportant get their POV even when it's not interesting or important to the story. There was a lack of world-building that sort of assumed we knew all about Feudal Japan, which didn't really help to center me in the location/time period and there were things in brackets which should really have been put into a glossary that I could have referred to throughout.
For me, although the story was intriguing, the writing style and the often difficult to follow dialogue made it hard to really settle comfortably. The back-and-forward timeline, though it suited the story, also made it harder to follow the flow and storyline. When even a person's own memories were told in omnipresent POV, or sometimes even someone else's POV entirely, it makes it difficult on the reader.
Though the concept was intriguing and the overall storyline decent, this author's writing style and I just didn't get along. It took me a day and a half just to get through 45%, because it was so exhausting trying to keep up with the hidden meanings, the twists and turns, decipher the conjoined words and try to figure out the who, where and why of what was happening. It was just too much effort for me to enjoy the story or feel so much as concerned for the characters.
Sadly, not for me.